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WHERE DO I START?

 

Start with the records, then the zoning laws.  One must assemble a comprehensive picture of the exact conditions of the property, both legally and physically.


 

WHAT IS AN INSPECTION?

 

One type of inspection occurs when and inspector visits the site to approve construction work for the building permits.  Building permits are not definitive if the work that they identify has not been signed off on by an inspector.  The inspector is the last and the most important part of the permit process.  The number and type of inspections vary depending on the work being done. When the building permits are issued you will receive an inspection record sheet that lists the types of inspection that the property owner will receive.


 

WHAT IS A BUILDING PERMIT?

 

There is a variety of different building permits are governed by and/or issued by different agencies.


 

WHAT ARE MY LOCAL CODES?

 

The simple answer is to call PERMIT MY PROPERTY.  The detailed answer is that building permit requirements vary dramatically between municipalities and also between different geographical areas within one municipality.  A few examples include the Coastal Commission vs. Hillside and Residential Districts vs. Commercial Districts.  There are also Specialty Development Zones that include, for example, the Mulholland Highway Scenic Corridor, the Historic Overlay Preservation Zone, the Public Recreation Land Agency, etc. 

You have to know what code your municipality adhere­­s to, as well as the special restrictions that modify the municipal code.  These may include the Uniform Building Code vs. Los Angeles City Building Code vs. Los Angeles County Building Code, etc.  Some special districts include Fire Zones, Urban Renewal Zones, Redevelopment Districts, etc.  These special districts will place additional code restrictions on the regular municipal code and the Specialty Development Zones.


 

WHAT IS R.E.A.P.?

 

REAP stands for Rent Escrow Account Program. In Los Angeles, all multi-family buildings are inspected by the Los Angeles Housing Department (L.A.H.D.) through a program called SCEP (Systematic Code Enforcement Program).  When an Order to Comply is received but left unresolved, the building in question can be placed in REAP. An Order To Comply may include any of a variety of repairs, upgrades, or corrective measures to a property to be executed by the landlord/owner.  When a property is placed in the REAP program by the L.A.H.D., there are also numerous financial implications:


 

WHAT IS THE COST?

 

"How much are the building permit fees?"  This is always one of the first questions to be asked, and one that must be answered responsibly. Due to the wide variety of types of problems in the category of "property legalization" and "retroactive permitting", not to mention the varying degrees of these problems, it is not prudent to establish a rigidly simple set of fixed costs or building permit fees for all properties and projects. The nature and scope of the issues for a particular property, rather than a predetermined formula, will largely determine the costs.


 

WHY AN ORDER TO COMPLY?

 

An Order to Comply is a formal letter or an official "request" from a governing public agency that seeks from the owner, (who is deemed the responsible party), the correction or upgrading of some condition of the property.  It is important to remember that such "requests" are not influenced or mitigated by whether or not the owner actually caused the issue, or inherited it at the time ownership commenced, or even ever knew about it.  These Orders to Comply are also not usually avoidable just because equivalent issues or conditions exist with other neighboring or similar types of properties.


 

IS MY BUILDING UNPERMITTED?

 

Building without a permit? This includes garage conversions, guesthouse conversions, most deck additions, or any new or added building work which would normally require written approvals from a regulatory agency.  Permits are also needed for rough construction and structural work, electrical, plumbing, heating/air conditioning work, grading or drainage.


 

WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?

 

Building compliance options that pertain to "property legalization" and/or "retroactive permitting" situations are dependent on two factors. One factor determines the intensity of the government's need to rectify the perceived building compliance problem and the limits of its flexibility regarding the building compliance option(s). The other factor dictates the responses the owner may be able or willing to make, given the choices and resources that are available.


 

WHY IS THIS NECESSARY?

 

There is an old joke that the first laws were the ten commandments, and the second set of laws was the building code.

The procedures and requirements collectively known as Property Legalization, Retroactive Permitting, or Building Code Compliance are all necessary for a variety of reasons relating to both public policy and individual protections and rights.


 

WHO MUST APPROVE THIS?

 

A building permit approvals often come from a plan check engineer working at the Building Department in the specific city or county jurisdiction that governs a given property.  Other formal approvals may come separately and directly from the staff of other agencies having separate or shared jurisdiction over the property.  These agencies may include: Planning and Zoning, Street and Public Access, Special Use or Development Zones, Coastal Zones, Hillside or Special Demography Districts, Fire and Safety, Handicap Access Regulators, Energy Code Compliance, etc.

The technical requirements generally follow regulations of either the Uniform Building Code or the City's custom building code.

Prior to obtaining building permit approval, it is also often necessary to obtain other approvals on which the building permit ultimately depends.  These may include planning and zoning, fire department, etc.  Therefore, applying for a building permit is not always the place to begin.  Appropriate research and analysis is important in order to incorporate all aspects of the building permit approval process in the proper sequence.


 

WHEN WILL IT BE FINISHED?

 

The process can range from a few days to several months, depending on the type of approval being sought.  Determining which of these approvals are necessary and whether or not these are contingent on each other, or subject to a parallel review or linear sequence, is the critical factor.


 

HOW DO I GET A VARIANCE?

 

A use variance, or zoning variance authorizes a land use not normally permitted by the zoning ordinance.  The variance procedure is possibly one of the more costly and time consuming routes within the building permit approval process.  Zoning variance procedures are normally pursued when the owner’s goals for the project fall outside the normal rules that define what is allowed.  A careful analysis should be made to determine whether a zoning variance is worth the effort, time, and cost required.

If the pursuit of a zoning variance is deemed to be worthwhile, then a separate set of procedures will result which will be distinct from the normal requirements of the building permit itself. These procedures must be performed before the building permit review is completed.

The zoning variance procedure often includes formal submittals of architectural plans or blueprints, documents to public agencies, notification to neighbors, advisory reports by experts, public hearings, etc.  In determining whether a zoning variance should be pursued, all of these factors should be weighed against an informed analysis of the likelihood of success or failure.


 

NEED AN EXPERT WITNESS?

 

PERMIT MY PROPERTY's real estate expert witness division consists of an experienced group of land use experts, technical consultants, and construction estimators.


 

DO I NEED A BUILDING PERMIT?

 

Typically, a building permit is required any time you do physical construction work that is regulated by any building code. 

Any work that alters electrical, plumbing or HVAC requires an express permit.


 

DO I NEED A PROFESSIONAL?

 

The brief answer is that at some point you will, and it is best to begin with one.  The permit process can be complicated and intricate, the city and county building codes almost always require a professional.

Owners should also understand that approval from one agency does not necessarily constitute approval from others.  This is why it is often crucial to have professional assistance in coordinating the building permit submittals and approvals.  In many cases, it will require multiple approvals from separate agencies to accomplish the total permit package; one that would allow the property owner to accomplish what is required to fully authorize work to be preformed or to legalize existing conditions.  A connected and experienced professional can insure that no gaps are left in the approval process, and that information is properly coordinated.