Sign In
 

FAQ

Zoning

How can I get zoning documents about a property?

It is no longer necessary to come to the Municipal Services Building to get documentation for a property, as residents can now search and view documents and drawings related to specific properties in the city of Philadelphia from the Zoning Archive Online

How do I appeal a zoning determination? How do I appeal a zoning application rejection?

The Zoning Board of Adjustment is an independent panel that hears appeals of previously rejected zoning applications and has the authority to overturn a decision by the Department of Licenses and Inspections.  Call (215) 686-2429 to contact the Zoning Board of Adjustment.  Take advantage of our interactive map to check the status of an appeal on a violation address.

What can be done about blocks with a disproportionate number of rentals?

Rentals are a zoning issue. If the rental property has the appropriate zoning, it can operate. To operate a rental property, an owner must have a housing inspection license and a Commercial Activity License.  You can check whether or not a property has a current license by searching for the address on our interactive map.

What are the zoning regulations for fences?

The Zoning Code currently allows fences as follows:
  • Front fences at the front of a dwelling may be up to 3 ½ feet in height.
  • Rear – fences at the rear or side of a dwelling may be up to 6 feet in height.
  • Along streets – fences that run parallel to streets are permitted up to 3 ½ feet in height.
  • Razor/barbed wire – Please note that the height of a fence includes the height of any razor and/or barbed wire that protrudes from it.  Also, it is considered hazardous and in violation of the zoning code if it is strung low enough so as to endanger passers by.  

Miscellaneous

What is L&I’s role in resolving landlord/tenant problems?

L&I holds owners, tenants and landlords accountable for maintaining houses and apartments in safe and clean condition in accordance with the City of Philadelphia's Housing Code.  L&I addresses problems such as: fire safety, basic equipment and facilities in rental properties, water and sewage systems, heating, and repairs.

How can I get a hard copy of a violation at a property?

To obtain a copy of a violation (or violations) on a specific address, a customer must visit the Central Clerical office at:
 
1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd.
Public Services Concourse Level
Phila. PA  19102
 
Note: The Central Clerical Unit does not mail out copies of violations; rather, they must be picked up from the Municipal Services Building.

Does L&I field questions with regard to my tax assessment?

The Department of Licenses and Inspections is not responsible for real estate tax assessments. The Office of Propety Assessment (OPA) is the City agency whose staff is charged with establishing real property values which serve as the basis for real estate taxes levied by the City of Philadelphia. Citizens with questions regarding their tax assessment should contact this agency:

Office of Property Assessment
Curtis Center
601 Walnut Street, Suite 300W
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Phone: 215-686-4334
Fax: 215-686-9223

How does the Department of Licenses and Inspections interpret enforcement codes?

The Code Administration Unit works with the Chief Code Official to develop bulletins for the purpose of clarifying the application of one or more sections of an enforcement code.  Issued at the behest of the Chief Code Official, such documents state the Department’s official position and foster consistent code application by staff and code users.  Our Code Bulletins page will address questions you may have about code intent or purpose.

How can I contact my district supervisor?

The contact information for our district offices is available on our Contact Us page.

What happens to complaints registered through 311?

  1. Customer dials 311.
  2. 311 Contact Center Agent receives the call.
  3. The Agent either:
    1. Transfers the call to the appropriate City Department,
    2. Makes a Referral, or
    3. Generates a Service Request.
  4. The issue is processed/ reslived either:
    1. At the Department level at the time of the call,
    2. By the 311 Agent using their knowledge base or the City-Wide Directory, or
    3. At a later date after the request is received and processed by the appropriate Department.  In the meantime, the caller can track the request by phone or Internet with a tracking number obtained during the call.

Complaints can be reported to 311 and tracked online as well.

Is there a general timetable to illustrate the turnaround time for action to be taken by the Department?

The Department of Licenses & Inspections has made the following Service Level Agreements:
  • Business Compliance- Inspect within 30 days of service request
  • Building and Plumbing Construction- Inspect within 10 business days
  • Fire- Inspect within 30 business days
  • Property Maintenance- Inspect within 30 business days
  • Vacant Lots, Properties, and Residential Licenses- Inspect within 30 business days
  • Zoning and Electrical Permit Plans- Inspect within 20 days
  • Building and Plumbing Permit Inspections- Inspect within 2 days of service request
  • Emergency Services and Abatement Referrals- Inspect within 10 days of service request (emergencies should be responded to within one hour)
  • Demolitions- Complete within 30 days of request
  • Dangerous Vacant or Historical Buildings- Inspect within 15 business days
  • Dangerous Occupied Building- Inspect within 5 business days
  • Daycare- Inspect within 30 business days
  • Drainage Maintenance- Inspect within 30 business days
  • Emergency Façade Repair- Inspect within 5 business days
  • Emergency Air Conditioning- Inspect within 1 business day
  • Infestation- Inspect within 30 business days

How do I request to not receive circulars and handbills at my residence?

The Department maintains a commercial handbill Non Delivery List identifying all properties whose owners request non-delivery. Property owners who do not wish to receive hand-delivered advertising circulars or handbills can fill out the "Circular Non-Delivery Decal Order" form.

Owners of registered properties will receive a "Circular Free Property" decal (sticker), which should be posted at the property, visible from the sidewalk. Please review the order form for more information.

Useful Facts about the Handbill Ordinance.

Vacant Property Strategy

Is plywood a sufficient covering for openings in place of actual windows and doors?

If the property is on a block that is at least 80% occupied or has been cited as a blighting influence by the Commissioner, you may not seal openings with anything other than operable windows or doors.

How do I report a vacant property with boarded up windows and doors and what is the approximate response time?

Reports may be made through 311. Please report which doors and windows are missing and indicate where they are missing in the property. (For example, the rear door and windows are missing on the first level.)  It takes the Department approximately 90 days to take an owner to court for an issue because we have to legally give him/her time to come into compliance.  To check to see if an address has been cited with a violation, visit the map.

I am a property owner and I have received a pink violation notice. What happens next?

Owners have thirty days to comply following the initial issuance of violation.  A second inspection will be conducted at this time to determine compliance.  Following an additional thirty days, an inspector will return to evaluate the condition of the property.  Owners who are in non-compliance at the time of the third inspection may be served in blight court and subject to fines of $300.00 per opening per day.

Licensing

Is a license required for day care conducted in a single family home?

Yes, the City of Philadelphia requires a license if you provide day care in your primary residence for unrelated children. The cost of the license is $50 and requires an inspection of the home.

If I wish to perform minor work on my property (deck in the backyard, adding a fence), do I have to obtain a permit?

Yes, a building permit is a document required by the City that grants someone permission to begin construction to enlarge, repair, change or demolish a structure or any equipment or systems that are installed in a structure.
A permit is required for the following activities:
  • New construction (deck in the backyard, adding a fence)
  • Repairs, remodeling, alterations, demolition or additions to a structure
  • Installation of foundations for tanks and equipment
  • Construction or demolition of ducts, sprinkler systems or standpipe system
  • Changes in the occupancy classification of a structure

Do I need to obtain a license if I own a vacant building or a vacant lot?

Yes.  If you are the owner of a vacant building or a vacant lot you must obtain a vacant property license from the Department of License & Inspections.  The annual fee for such licenses is $300.00 per property.

What are the conditions under which a Vendor License is required?

A Vendor on Foot license is required for the taking of orders, and as a separate transaction, making deliveries to purchasers. A Vendor Motor Vehicle license is required to offer goods for sale from a wagon, vehicle or conveyance. Licenses are required for any period from one day to one year.
 
The following prior approvals are necessary prior to soliciting a license:
 
  • Food Establishment, Retail Non-Permanent Location (if food will be sold)
  • Health Department Approval (if food will be sold)
  • Annual Commercial Activity License
  • Business Tax Account Number
  • Federal Tax Identification Number or Social Security Number
  • Weighing and Measuring License (if applicable)

Permits and Certificates

Do I need a separate permit for work that is done in conjunction with other projects performed under a different permit?

Yes.

How do I apply for the Homeowners Emergency Loan Program (HELP)?

Homeowner's Emergency Loan Program (HELP) is a plumbing repair assistance program administered by the Philadelphia Water Department that provides a zero-interest loan to eligible water customers who have been issued a Notice of Violation/Defect for a defective water or drainage system The application is completed over the telephone. For the HELP Loan Program call (215) 685-4901.

Do I need additional permits if my property is listed on the City’s Historical Register?

Historically designated structures may require pre-authorization and approval by other City Departments to make any modifications to the edifice. L&I refers all building and demolition permit applications for properties on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places to the Historical Commission for its review.  The Department will not issue a permit without the prior approval of the Commission.

What services are available through "EZ Permit" and how are they accessed?

Applicants may complete and submit an EZ Application when  building plans are not required (i.e. for existing single-family dwellings) and  the applicant agrees to perform construction within the parameters outlined in  the standards below:

Property History

Search for all L&I history

Map