let’s talk : PERMITS & WHY THEY ARE SO IMPORTANT

Good morning!

If you guys follow my instagram @erin.home.and.realestate you may have seen my mini celebration (ft Happy by Pharrell) last Friday when we received word that our alteration permit FINALLY came through. This has been quite that saga that set our project back MONTHS. Let me share with you where we went wrong so that you can avoid this for your future renovations!

So, as we do, let’s talk Real Estate, let’s talk PERMITS & WHY THEY ARE SO IMPORTANT…

So Project Philadelphia has really been my baby since July. It is my first major renovation and something I am and have been super excited about. We literally gutted the entire home and started with a fresh slate. I was so excited and essentially designed this one on my own! Everything was going great, my GC took my plans to L&I (Philadelphia License & Inspection), they were approved, he obtained the alteration permit the same day, all was well in the world and I thought – wow this really isn’t hard. Boy did I have it coming…

Let’s fast forward 4 months to November. My electrication is finishing up his work and he heads down to L&I to pull his permit to complete the project. His permit is denied. WHY?! Well, he pulled a permit for electrical work on a multi-family home when my GC had pulled an alteration permit out for a single family home (btw this was NEWS TO ME). Why did my GC pull the single family home alteration permit vs the multi-family? He said he THOUGHT the home was already zoned multi-family so he did not need to specify what type of alteration permit we were pulling… In all fairness I also did not know to check this AND he was right, our home WAS zoned multi-family. It turns out it was zoned multi-family BUT registered for use as a single family. You can read more about that saga on our ZONING post HERE. Anyways, this “confusion” opened a HUGE can of worms. L&I questioned why we had a single family alteration permit pulled (fair question). When we told them what we were doing (converting a single family home to a multi-family home) they wanted to have a structural engineer involved. NOW technically this is NOT required for homes under 4 units BUT they were requiring it here, and frankly, in hindsight, it should probably should be required ALWAYS (in my opinion) because shouldn’t we always be putting safety first?!

SO, HERE IS WHAT HAPPENED

Erin buys home

Erin designs home

Erin hires GC

GC pulls an ALTERATION PERMIT for a SINGLE FAMILY HOME…..I want to reiterate that I was NOT aware that the alteration permit was for a SFR ONLY so ALWAYS check up on your permits AND learn how to read them!

Construction begins!

Electrical goes in

Electrician goes to file for electrical permit for MULTI-FAMILY HOME

PERMIT IS DENIED

L&I questions why we have two permits out – one single family and one multi-family

L&I wants to see the drawings we used to design the property and is requiring the sign off from a structural engineer

Erin has to find & hire a structural engineer. Thank you PHILADELPHIA ZONING for your recommendation with that!

Structural Engineer does a walkthrough of the property and draws up the plans

GC submits the plans to L&I so that we can pull the correct alteration permit

Permit is DENIED ——- WHY NOW!?! Because there was not a proper egress from one of the bedrooms on the first floor.

We come up with a plan to re-configure the first floor unit such that there is NOW a proper exit from the bedroom to a common area. This requires pulling out existing framing and electrical and then rebuilding. 

Structural engineer then comes back out, takes the new measurements, and re-draws the plans.

GC submits these NEW plans to L&I and they are finally approved!!! YAY!

NOW WE CAN CLOSE UP THE WALLS AND FINALLY FINISH THIS PROJECT – WOO!!

HERE IS WHAT SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED

Erin buys home

Erin hires local and LICENSED structural engineer or architect to help design and draw up plans. This will cost you $$$ but worth it in the end to know that your property is to code and should pass smoothly through L&I. 

Erin hires GC

GC submits plans to L&I to pull the CORRECT alteration permit

Construction begins, we stay in line with the timeline and all is well in the world!

HERE ARE THE CONSEQUENCES

All in all this ended up costing us almost 3 months and a few thousands dollars. Turns out that there have been several properties in the Philadelphia area where construction has gone WRONG due to the large influx of investors and projects. I’m talking houses full on collapsing to the ground. Because of this, the permit process took way longer than expected each time.

So moral of my sob story is, always DOUBLE CHECK your permits, get as involved as you can be when it comes to this stuff, and know your local codes and regulations. Hopefully, we will be much better equipped and well versed for the next project down there!

Feel free to comment on the blog post HEREand let us know what YOU think!

Happy Wednesday!
Erin

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Me – this is also based on my personal experiences!

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