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Question DetailsAsked on 3/29/2017

how can I get a building permit for a garage dwelling,

Building and Safety has asked me to get a permit for the 2 car garage that I converted into dwelling. I need help in getting it a permit.

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1 Answer


For "help" in many or probably most areas you would need plans (as-built's in this case) signed off on by an architect (or civil engineer in many areas) - or in some areas a General Contractor can do this for up to 2 or sometimes 4-plex buildings. These would be "as-built" plans, but would have to be certified as a "design" same as if they had been done before the construction.

Generally speaking, while it is possible to honcho something like this through on your own as the property owner, having an architect/engineer experienced in this sort of situation do them is generally simpler and easier to get through the building department, especially if the contractor (or homeowner) is also the one who initially did the work without a permit. In some areas the architect/engineer can do an "independent inspection" meaning THEY serve as the building inspector and sign off that it meets code requirements - which makes it a LOT easier if things need fixing, because that can be done while working with the architect/engineer item by item rather than having to pay for multiple follow-up inspections by the building inspector as he keeps coming back and saying more needs to be reworked or that he does not accept the rework that has been done. Instead, the architect can act as your agent in dealing with a general contractor in getting any required revisions/corrections done, then sign off when complete and submit to the building department as a completed inspection.

Sometimes inspections just involve looking at visible work and taking off electrical cover plates and inspecting wiring there and such, in other cases or areas they want to see at least some of the plumbing and wiring to see if it looks like it was done in a workmanlike manner - which depending on whether you have open plumbing and wiring in crawlspace or exposed ceiling basement or such may meanremoving some drywall to allow for inspection. I have seen cases, where the work looked shoddy or the city inspectors were real protective of their realm (commonly in largest cities), where ALL the drywall and once even a sample area of the roofing had to be pulled off so they could see and inspect all the utilities and typical wall insulation and construction, and roofing construction.

Dealing with Planning and Zoning (or Development Services or whatever that department is called in your area) may well be the tougher part - especially if this is considered a second dwelling on the property and it is zoned for single family residential use only. Though some areas do allow "in-law apartments" or "servant's quarters" as a separate building of certain limited size. But generally, if zoned as an R-1 classification (and some other single-family residential classifications also in some areas, depending on acreage) then having an unrelated person or a renter living in it would constitute a second residence and would require subdividing the propaerty (if legal and large enough) - tough enough to push through if done before the fact, very tough commonly after the fact. Plus normally there will be a public notice on any zoning waiver needed, which neighbors can object to and put a halt to.

Plus of course any other Planning and Zoning restrictions for a second dwelling would have to be met - distance to property lines or street/sidewalk, distance between buildings (assuming this is detached unit), limits on size of building or acreage associated with it, minimum distances between wells and septic sytems and property lines, minimum septic system capacity based on number of bedrooms in the combined houses - or if a separate dwelling, then requirements for separate utilities and septic system, minimum parking provisions, etc.

And of course any fines or penalties for not having the right permits before doing the work, as one of the links below goes into.

And note - they do not "have to" give you a permit - if you failed to meet certain requirements, especially environmental or land use/zoning, and they will not grant a waiver or it goes to public notice/hearing and the planning and zoning commission decides not to grant the permit, they can require that the work be "undone" - reverted back to a garage.

Here are some prior similar questions with more info FYI:

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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