Building Permits and Local Ordinances

We recently touched on the issue of obtaining building permits in home improvement work.  In addition to state requirements, most cities and towns have their own local ordinances that govern home construction.  You are likely aware that cities and towns dictate zoning and setback requirements, but did you also know that local ordinances can also put further conditions on the manner and means of pulling a building permit?

The City of Waltham has been contemplating a new ordinance governing the issuance of their building permits.  The proposed ordinance would impose more onerous requirements on the applicant for building permits on construction projects that are estimated to exceed $500,000 – so the ordinance would not apply to minor home improvement projects, but could very well apply to new construction or significant additions.  Among the proposed requirements, the ordinance would disallow such permits to be issued to any firm that has “been debarred or suspended from performing construction work by any federal, state or local government agency or authority in the past three years.”  The proposed ordinance also places more stringent requirements in regards to workers compensation insurance and compliance with wage and hour laws.

When hiring a home improvement contractor, talk with them about their experience in your city or town.  Contractors tend to focus most of their work in one or several towns, making them more experienced in dealing with the local building departments and inspectors.  The more work they do in your city or town, the more likely they will be familiar with local requirements – and the more likely it will be that the permitting process will go smoothly.

You may also want to speak with your local building department to ask about your potential contractor before hiring him or her.  The city officials might have some valuable insight about your contractor.