You need this permit to build a new retaining wall or replace one that already exists. Retaining walls prevent soil from sliding down a hill or other sudden change in elevation.
This permit is required for retaining walls that:
- Are at least 2 feet high.
- Contain flammable or combustible liquids.
- Support a surcharge load.
You don’t need to submit plans with your application if the wall follows the EZ Permit Standard for retaining walls.
New retaining walls must not encroach on bordering property. If a wall needs to encroach, easements or similar legal agreements may be necessary.
If an existing retaining wall straddles a property line, two or more adjoining property owners may be jointly responsible for repair and maintenance of the wall. The only way to determine the exact location of any existing retaining wall is through a field survey performed by a licensed surveyor.
The Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) issues this permit.
Any property owner or their authorized agent can apply for this permit. Authorized agents may include:
- PA design professional
- Licensed expediter
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 your application requires plans, they must follow plan requirements.
- Plans must be drawn to scale on a sheet that is at least 18 in. by 24 in.
- Include three copies of plans.
- Plans must include the following detail:
- Project address
- Wall construction details, including any reinforcement, tie backs, or geotextiles
- Foundation details
- Elevations or sections
- Other structural and miscellaneous details
- A design professional must sign and seal the plans if the project includes:
A licensed Philadelphia contractor must perform the work, except when the project involves an existing one-or-two-family home. Then work may also be performed by:
- An owner who resides in the building.
- A registered PA Home Improvement Contractor (HIC) who holds a Philadelphia Commercial Activity License.
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.
Forms and other documents
Refer to the building permits plan requirements to see if you need to submit additional documents.
For all historic properties
You need approval from
The Historical Commission
You must have this approval in order to apply. L&I will refuse your permit application without Historical Commission approval. See how to get approval for work to a historic property.
You’ll need your plans with stamped approval from the Historical Commission before you make your application at the Permit and License Center in the MSB.
Submit your stamped plan as proof of approval when making your application.
For retaining walls that encroach on the right-of-way
You need approval from
The Department of Streets
You’ll need to complete a Streets plan review. Find Streets plan review requirements and applicable forms for more information.
You’ll need your plan with stamped approval from Department of Streets before you make your application to L&I.
Once approved, submit your stamped plan with your other application materials when submitting in person at the Permit and License Center in the MSB.
For earth disturbance of 5,000 sq. ft. or more
You need approval from
The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) – Stormwater Management
To get stormwater management review, submit an ERSA Application at www.pwdplanreview.org.
Refer to the Philadelphia Stormwater Management Guidance Manual for more information.
Submit all required materials directly to PWD before filing your permit application.
Then, fill out and submit your permit application at Permit and License Center in the MSB.
Where and when
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
Offices close at noon on the last Wednesday of each month.
Fee types that may apply
- For sites containing one-or-two-family dwellings: $25
- For all other sites: $100
This fee is nonrefundable and is applied towards the final permit fee.
Permit fees are based on the height of the retaining wall.
- For walls between 2 ft. and 4 ft. tall: $125
- For walls 4 ft. and taller: $200
- Flat fee for one-or-two-family dwellings: $55
- City surcharge: $3 per permit
- State surcharge: $4.50 per permit
Record retention fee
- Per page larger than 8.5 in. x 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.
Payment methods and details
Accepted payment methods
|Online through the eCLIPSE application||
|In person at the Permit and License Center in the Municipal Services Building||
|In person at the Cashier’s Station in the Municipal Services Building
(Items paid at the Cashier’s Station will be mailed within five business days.)
Checks and money orders
- Make all checks and money orders payable to the “City of Philadelphia.”
- The individual or company listed on the check must be listed on the application.
- Personal checks are accepted.
- Checks and money orders must have issue dates within 12 months of the transaction.
Reasons your check may be rejected
L&I will not accept checks that are missing depository information or are:
- Starter checks without account info
Returned payment policy
If your check is returned unpaid for insufficient or uncollected funds:
- You authorize the City of Philadelphia or its agent to make a one-time electronic fund transfer from your account to collect a fee of $20.
- The City of Philadelphia or its agent may re-present your check electronically to your depository institution for payment.
Apply online in person at the Permit and License Center.
Applications are processed within 20 business days.
The applicant can accelerate the application for an additional fee. Accelerated applications are reviewed within 5-10 business days.
If not approved, the applicant will receive an email stating what is missing or required.
Before a permit may be issued, the contractor must be identified and confirm association with the project.
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.