FAQ – Building Permit Application Procedure

1. When is a Building Permit Required?

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The Massachusetts State Building Code 780 CMR states that “it shall be unlawful to construct, reconstruct, alter, repair, remove or demolish a structure; or to change the use or occupancy of a building or structure; or to install or alter any equipment for which provision is made or the installation of which is regulated by this code” without first obtaining a building permit. This includes, but is not limited to, new structures, additions, dormers, chimneys, woodstoves, decks, roofing, siding, swimming pools, antennae, and sheds. The only exception is an ordinary repair. An ordinary repair does not require a building permit.

2. What is an ordinary repair?

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The State Building Code defines ordinary repairs as “any maintenance which does not affect structure, egress, fire protection systems, fire ratings, energy conservation provisions, plumbing, sanitary, gas, electrical, or other utilities. This has been interpreted to mean that rotted floor boards can be replaced on a deck, but the deck can not be rebuilt without a permit. Also, damaged roof shingles can be repaired, but the entire roof cannot be re-shingled without a permit. If in doubt as to how much work can be done under ordinary repairs, contact the Department of Municipal Inspections before the start of work.

3. What is the penalty for working without a permit?

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At the minimum, you will be required to obtain a permit and pay a double fee. The State Building Code allows for a fine of up to $1000.00 per day. If work requiring inspections is covered, it will be required to be uncovered for inspection, and if any work is in violation of the building code or zoning ordinance, it will be required to be corrected. Failure to obtain a building permit may jeopardize your homeowner’s insurance.

4. How do I apply for a building permit?

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Applications can be obtained at the Department of Municipal Inspections. A sample building permit is available on-line.

5. Is any other information required to be submitted with the application?

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Yes. For most projects, 3 sets of construction plans and 3 copies of a certified plot plan must accompany the application, along with the permit fee.

6. Can I begin work once I submit my application?

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No. Work cannot proceed until the permit has been issued.

7. How long does it take to obtain a permit?

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The Department of Municipal Inspections has a maximum of 30 days in which to issue or deny a building permit. The actual time can vary from 1 day up to the maximum 30-day limit, depending on the number of applications ahead of yours, and the scope of work. Generally, the smaller jobs will take a shorter time, with new buildings taking close to the full 30 days, so allow for this in your scheduling.

8. Will I be informed when the permit is issued, or do I have to keep calling to find out the status?

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The applicant will be called when the permit is ready. If we are unable to reach you by telephone you will be notified by mail. When the permit is ready, it must be picked up at the Department of Municipal Inspections.


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