By Helen Callier
September 4th, 2021
There are too many times to count where PermitUsNow team members have answered the company’s 1.844.PERMIT.4 line and the voice on the other side says, “I am having problems getting a permit.” We ask the caller basic questions like the scope of work, location, type of use, and their City Permitting project number. The caller rattles off the scope, physical address and then indicates the use of the building. “What was this prior use of property”, we ask the caller. “It was a furniture store; and before, it was a residence.” And you are building out a medical spa, is that correct? “Yes”, says the caller in a barely audible voice.
This is the cause of their permitting woes as jurisdictions often require a full set of plans when a change of use is involved. And while Project Owners are focused on location, location, location for the site, doing so without understanding the impact of obtaining a site with a change of use, can be and often is costly.
So, what does change of use mean? Basically, a change of use means when a building undergoes major remodel for another use or may incur no physical changes but has a change in the type of business use. For example, if the building was a residential property and is being converted for retail or if the building was a grocery store and now becoming a school. Both illustrate a different type of way the building will be used and as a result, must comply with the appropriate building codes and obtain a change of use permit.
What is a change of use permit? A change of use permit validates that the jurisdiction has reviewed and approved plans for the proposed use. Approval signifies that the plans comply to applicable building codes. Once approved, a change of use permit is issued, and construction work can start.
If you’re a General Contractor that has a building project involving a change of use, below are 5 things to consider with permitting.
- What is current use of space versus proposed use? Answering this question will dictate how stringent the departmental reviews will be after submitting to jurisdiction for a change of use permit. Suggest meeting with a city Plan Reviewer early.
- Conduct a site visit with Contractor, key consultants, and if possible, with Project Owner to assess the work to be done and what type of changes will be needed to meet code. We have found that these changes are beyond what the Project Owner has thought about and a site visit helps minimize any surprises down the road.
- Do you have existing building plans? Jurisdictions usually require a full set of plans when a change of use is involved. If Project Owner does not have plans, check with the Landlord or Property Management. If these options do not yield any drawings, then contact the jurisdiction to see if plans are in archives.
- Taking building as-is? If so, then another route to consider is going straight to Occupancy to ask for an inspection. After paying the inspection fee, City Occupancy will schedule a site visit. During this visit, Inspectors will indicate what is needed to meet the code and provide you a written report. You can then take this report, most of the time, and use as punch list to address all items that require fixing. Once fixed, call for Occupancy Inspection again, and if approved, you are on your way to obtaining your Certificate of Occupancy and ready to open.
- Need help in obtaining change of use permitting? Consider contacting a building permit expert that has experience in permitting projects that involved a different use. Doing so can save time and money plus alleviate frustrations with permitting.
Change of use permits can be a pain and present challenges in obtaining approval. The 5 things to consider are designed to get you to “think” and in doing so develop an approach to minimize delays in permitting and in starting construction. I love helping businesses to open and the 1.844.PERMIT.4 line is open now to take your request on permitting your next project.