Zoning, planning & development

Get a Zoning Permit to change the use of a property

Service overview

You need this permit to change the use of a property or part of a property. For example, to:

  • Increase or decrease the number of residential units on a property.
  • Change a commercial tenant space to a residential unit or new business.
  • Start a daycare center.
  • Establish a retail sales, business office, or restaurant.
  • Convert a warehouse into artist studios.

You don’t need this permit if the established use of a property remains the same, even if there is a new owner or tenant.

If your proposal meets code requirements, you are granted permits as a matter of right. If your proposal does not meet code requirements, you’ll need a special exception or variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Zoning is only one step of the permitting and licensing process. You may need other construction permitsoccupancy certificates, safety certifications or licenses to operate legally or complete your project.

The Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) issues Use Permits.

If the property is in the floodplain

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

Who

Property owners and their authorized agents can apply for this permit. Authorized agents may include:

  • Design professionals.
  • Attorneys.
  • Contractors.
  • Licensed expediters.
  • Tenants, provided they have the owner’s permission.

Requirements

Permit application

The permit application must include the proposed change 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 you are a tenant making application, provide your executed lease agreement.

Plans not required

If you are only requesting a change of use, you usually do not need to submit any plans or drawings.

Other documents

  • Flood Protection Forms: For use changes in the floodplain.
  • Key Plan: May be requested by L&I for reference on multi-tenant or multi-building sites.

Related permits

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

Filing fees

This fee varies depending on the proposed use.

  • For one-or-two-family dwellings: $25
  • For all other uses: $100

This fee is nonrefundable and will be applied toward the final cost of your permit.

Permit fees

  • For each permitted use: $150

Some businesses may have more than one use. As long as the uses are related, there is only one permit fee. For example, a store may sell both groceries and clothing. No permit fees will be required for a use registration permit for a family day care or group day care.

Record retention fee

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

Payment methods and details

Accepted payment methods

Where Accepted payment
Online through the eCLIPSE application
  • Electronic check
  • Credit card (+2.5% surcharge)
In person at the Permit and License Center in the Municipal Services Building
  • Electronic check
  • Credit card (+2.5% surcharge)
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.)

  • Check
  • Money order
  • Credit card (+2% surcharge)
  • Cash

Checks and money orders

Check requirements
  • 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:

  • Unsigned.
  • Expired.
  • Post-dated.
  • Starter checks without account info

Returned payment policy

If your check is returned unpaid for insufficient or uncollected funds:

  1. 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.
  2. The City of Philadelphia or its agent may re-present your check electronically to your depository institution for payment.

How

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

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

Permit applications are reviewed while you wait. This permit can usually be issued during your visit.

3
If not issued over-the-counter, you will be notified by email once the review is completed.

Approvals not issued immediately will be processed within 5 business days.

Appeals

If your application receives a Notice of Refusal or Notice of Referral, you may appeal to the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Your right to appeal a Notice of Refusal or Referral expires 30 days from the date it was issued. These denials can not be extended. You need to submit new application and filing fees to get a new refusal or referral.

Renewal requirements

Zoning permits to change use expire after six months if activity related to the approved use does not start.


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