Permits, violations & licenses

Get a Building Permit

Service overview

You must get a Building Permit before starting a project that:

  • Constructs a new building.
  • Enlarges or adds to an existing structure.
  • Changes the interior or exterior of an existing structure.
  • Partially or fully demolishes a structure.
  • Changes the occupancy classification of any part of a building.
  • Increases the occupant load in a space.
  • Includes major repairs that aren’t part of regular maintenance.

Some projects are eligible for an EZ Permit, which don’t require you to submit plans.

In most cases, you must get a Zoning Permit before you can apply for a Building Permit.

The Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) issues these permits.

Projects that may not need permits

For some projects, you may not even need a Building Permit at all. As long as your property is not on the Philadelphia Historic Registry, you often don’t need a permit for:

  • Repairs related to regular maintenance.
  • Fencing up to six feet in height.
  • Retaining walls up to two feet in height. 
  • Some exterior work
    • Sidewalks, driveways, or projects like these that don’t go into the right-of-way or include parking.
    • Pointing masonry.
  • Replacing doors and windows in one-or-two-family dwellings.
  • Interior finish work
    • Painting, papering, and similar wall and ceiling finishes.
    • Paneling or gypsum wallboard installed over existing wall surfaces and ceiling material applied directly to existing ceilings in one-or-two-family and Group U occupancies.
    • Conventional floor coverings that are not comprised of fibers.
    • Carpeting and similar floor coverings that are not installed in exit access corridors, exit passageways, or vertical exits.
    • Cabinets and countertops.
    • Movable cases, counters, and partitions that are less than 6 ft. tall.
  • Accessory structures and features
    • Detached structures, like sheds, for one-or-two-family dwellings, 200 sq. ft. or less
    • Playground and pet equipment for one-or-two-family dwellings
    • Prefabricated swimming pools or spas, less than 24 in. deep, less than 5,000 gallons.

If the property is in the floodplain

Properties in the floodplain may require special documents or a review meeting.

Who

Any property owner or their authorized agent can apply for this permit. An authorized agent may include:

  • Design professional
  • Attorney
  • Contractor
  • Licensed expediter

Requirements

Permit application

The permit application must include the complete scope of work and current owner information.

  • If the property was recently sold, submit a copy of the settlement sheet or deed with the application.
  • You must apply for all permits under the legal address established by the Office of Property Assessment (OPA).
  • If the application is submitted by a building tenant, provide a copy of the executed lease.
  • No permits will be released for new construction unless the property is current on all City of Philadelphia taxes.

Contractor

A licensed Philadelphia contractor must perform the work, except for projects on an existing one-or-two-family home that don’t require an electrical or plumbing permit. In that case, work may also be performed by:

If your project requires a contractor, the contractor must be named before final payment for the permit can be accepted. The contractor must:

  • Have an active license.
  • Be current on all City of Philadelphia taxes.
  • Have current insurance on file with L&I.

Plans

If your application requires plans, they must follow plan requirements.

Forms and other documents:

  • Application for Accelerated Review (optional)
  • Zoning Permit & Approved Zoning Site Plan
    • Stamped by Licenses and Inspections for respective permit numbers
  • Structural Design Criteria form
    • Structural Design Criteria form is required unless the building is a one-or-two family home.
  • Special Inspections documentation
    • Duties & Responsibilities Agreement signed by all parties
    • Statement of Special Inspections Schedule with categories and frequency selected
    • Name of licensed Special Inspection Agency qualified for all inspection categories
  • Energy Conservation Code compliance documentation
    • Reports or calculations to supplement plans, where applicable
  • Geotechnical Investigation Report signed and sealed by a professional engineer
    • Except residential additions under 2,000 sq. ft.
  • Flood Protection Forms
    • For properties located in Flood Hazard Areas
  • Engineering design calculations
    • For non-prescriptive designs or where requested by the plans examiner
  • Engineering inspection reports for existing structures
    • Required when constructing above an existing building or reusing an existing foundation system
  • Asbestos Inspection Report
    • For buildings constructed prior to December 31, 1980 with costs of work exceeding $50,000, but excluding one-to-three-family dwellings
  • Executed contract or itemized cost estimate
    • For alteration projects using the option for 2 percent permit fee calculation
    • Where requested by plans examiner for existing building accessibility compliance
  • Key plan
    • For properties with multiple buildings or tenant spaces
  • Affidavit of Limited Cooking
    • If cooking equipment is present without a commercial exhaust system
  • Affidavit of Restricted Use
    • For existing levels that will be sealed off and not occupied

Related Permits

You will usually need to get a Zoning Permit.

Required pre-approvals

For all historic properties

More +

For plans with right-of-way encroachments or parking

More +

For all new construction

More +

For all utilities in new construction

More +

For earth disturbance of 5,000 square feet or more.

More +

Where required by zoning review for NCO/NCA overlays

More +

Where required by zoning review for areas with facade or other aesthetic controls on building design

More +

For high-rise buildings 

More +

For new enclosed or underground parking garages exceeding a vehicle quantity threshold

More +

For projects with on-site sewage disposal (septic) or private wells

More +

For certain healthcare and medical facilities

More +

New construction of three or more adjacent dwellings or larger new construction or addition projects 

More +

Where and when

In person

Permit and License Center
1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd.
MSB, Public Service Concourse
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Office hours: 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday

Office closes at noon on the last Wednesday of each month.

Cost

Fee types that may apply

Filing fee

  • For one-or-two-family dwellings: $25
  • For any other occupancy: $100

This fee is nonrefundable and is applied towards the final permit fee.

Permit fee

The cost of your building permit depends on your project size and type.

Before applying, review the summary of building permit fees (PDF) to estimate the cost.

Surcharge fees

  • City surcharge: $3 per permit
  • State surcharge: $4.50 per permit

Record retention fee

  • Per page larger than 8.5 in. by 14 in.: $4

Accelerated Plan Review fee (optional)

Applications for new construction that include plans are eligible for expedited review. Accelerated applications are reviewed within 5–10 business days.

  • Fee: $540
  • If your plans require more than four hours to review, you will be charged an additional fee of $135 per hour.

To apply, fill out an Accelerated Plan Review application and submit with your permit application. Amount must be paid when you submit your application and will not be credited toward your final permit fee.

How

You can apply for this permit in person at the Permit and License Center. 

In person

1
Get any required pre-approvals before submitting your application to L&I.
2
Bring your completed application, application materials, and payment to the Permit and License Center.

The time it takes to process an application varies by type:

  • Alterations to a one-or-two-family dwelling: 10 business days
  • Additions to a one-or-two-family dwelling: 15 business days
  • All others: 20 business days
    • The applicant can accelerate the application for an additional fee. Accelerated applications are reviewed within 5-10 business days.
3
If approved, the applicant will receive notice to pay the balance.

If not approved, the applicant will receive an email stating what is missing or required.

Before a permit can be issued, the contractor must be identified.

4
Once approved, schedule required inspections

Contact your local inspection office when the contractor is ready to start work. The contact information and required inspections will be noted on your permit.

A Certificate of Approval will be issued upon successful completion of all required inspections.


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