How to Get a Building Permit Post-Construction

Building plans on paper with a wood stamp.

Building permits for remodeling and construction projects are a good way to ensure the structure is safe and up to current building standards. These permits are usually obtained before construction begins, but you may find yourself in a situation where you need to obtain a building permit after the work is done. Here is a quick guide on how to get a building permit post-construction.

Step 1 - Contact the Local Permit Office

A woman on the phone in front of a computer.

Permit requirements vary by city, so check with your local permit office to find out if a post-construction permit is available in your location. If you can apply for a permit after construction is completed, the steps are usually similar to applying for a permit before you start building. The biggest difference is the inspection process, which may require you to open up walls to ensure everything was built to code.

Step 2 - Fill Out an Application

The application for a post-construction permit is usually like obtaining a regular building permit. Common questions center around project description, type of construction, square footage estimates, building plans, and inspection fees. After you fill out the application, the permit office will review it and send out an inspector to the site. This step could take anywhere between a couple of days to a few weeks to finish.

Step 3 - Pass Inspection

A man inspecting a patio with a clipboard and level.

The inspection process is the trickiest part in obtaining a post-construction permit. If you know the building was constructed to code, then you probably only need to open up a portion of the construction to the inspector. In some situations, the inspector may require you to uncover extensive parts of the building. After the inspection is finished, the city will notify you of any changes that need to be made. You will typically be given a time frame in which to complete the changes and receive the permit.

Step 4 - Permit Cost

The cost of the permit will be based on the overall value of the project, but you may need to pay more to bring the building up to code.

If the construction was built to code, then paying for the permit and making minor repairs is probably all you will have to worry about. But if the building is not up to code, then getting a permit could prove expensive.

If you are not the original builder, then you won’t know if the building is up to code unless you uncover portions of the construction for inspection.

What if Your City Doesn’t Have a Post-Construction Permit Process?

Obtaining a post-construction permit in a city that doesn’t have a process in place can be a little tricky. In these situations, you will need to contact the local permit office and work with them to find a solution.

If you are an innocent buyer, many cities will work with you to obtain the proper permits to make the construction legal. If you did not know about the unpermitted work, there are laws that protect you against taxes or penalties associated with the project. You may even be able to defer some of the cost of getting the permit to the previous owner of the home.

Weighing Post-Construction Permit Costs

Depending on whether or not the building is up to code, it may be more affordable to tear everything down and start from scratch. But before you make any drastic moves, you should contact a local contractor to take a look at the building.

The contractor should be able to determine if the project was built to code and how much it would cost to bring everything up to code to obtain a permit.

The contractor will also know the best way to go about obtaining a post-construction permit in your city. If the building is up to code, then obtaining a permit is most likely the best route to take.

Building Permit Post-Construction FAQ

Who issues building permits?

Building permits may be administered through a county, city, or state government office, usually the Department of Housing, Building and Construction. If you're unsure, call your local courthouse and they should be able to direct you.

Do I need a permit to build a fence?

Building a fence is a relatively straightforward DIY task, if a bit labor-intensive, and those who like to do their own home improvements can typically complete this project in a few days or weeks. It seems a simple enough matter to build a fence but you may be required to obtain a permit even for this straightforward project.

Not only may your city, county, or state require a permit, you may also need to obtain permission to build a fence with your local neighborhood association or historical society, depending on where you live and the regulations that may be in place.

Do I need a permit to build a deck?

Building a deck is a task that many DIYers take on as a fairly straightforward home upgrade. However, your local area or neighborhood may have various restrictions or requirements depending on how large the deck is and whether or not it is a standalone structure or is attached to the house.

Some local areas may not have such requirements. You will need to check with your local housing authority to ask about permits based on the deck project you envision.

Who is responsible to obtain construction permits from local authority?

In many states and local areas, the owner of the property or the contractor is able to obtain the permit. Who is responsible for this task, however, can vary.

If you're hiring a contractor, talk to them directly about permits and establish right away who will be responsible for obtaining this paperwork.

Why building permit is required from local authority?

Local building codes are not in place to be an annoyance, though sometimes it certainly feels this way. These codes and regulations are set forth in order to protect the public safety and actually to prevent big problems you probably wouldn't want to face.

Electric and plumbing codes, for example, are used to give you a strong infrastructure that is functioning and safe. Adhering to the codes helps to prevent potential fire hazards, water damage, and even possibly fatal building and construction errors.

Not everything requires a permit but for many projects where public safety is a factor, such as building a structure that could potentially topple and hurt a person, a permit will be required by local law.