5 Strategies for Faster Permit Approvals

Building Permit Approved


Like many businesses, city and county planning departments throughout the country have struggled during the pandemic. Over that span, their professionals have experienced layoffs, furloughs, early retirement offers and reduced work hours. Permit reviews and approvals have slowed considerably.

And, while things have gotten better, limited staff combined with a backlog of applications means permit approval timeframes are not back to pre-pandemic levels yet.

We are still seeing building and health plan reviews take four to six weeks longer just for first comments. Los Angeles county no longer posts time estimates for expedited permits. Seattle’s backlog means first comments are coming more than five months after submittal. New commercial construction projects in San Jose can expect first comments within 25 weeks.

In an industry where delays are costly, everyone involved in a construction project feels the stress and frustration. This is especially true for new, smaller retailers where prolonged delays may mean going out of business before the doors even open.

As a commercial permit expeditor with 20-plus years of experience permitting all types of projects, Permit Place has witnessed the ebbs and flows created by different economic climates. Few things compare to what we’ve seen the past few years.

A sliver of good news is that all hope is not lost if you’re planning (or in the middle of) a construction project. There are steps you can take to improve your chances of a faster review and approval – or at least limit your stress and anxiety.


1. Set Expectations Early with Key Stakeholders 

The reality is unless permitting offices staff up quickly – highly unlikely considering the broader hiring challenges – permitting delays aren’t going anywhere. For this reason, set expectations with your key stakeholders early. While they’ll still want to see progress, they may be more understanding if they’re prepared up front.

To define this timeframe, consider investing in a due diligence report. In addition to all the rules and regulations you’ll face as part of the permit approval process, the report will lay out an estimated timeline for approval.


2. Build Complete Applications

When you finally get eyes on your application and drawings, you need to make sure all documentation is included, all forms are complete, the information is accurate and signatures are collected. Any requests for more information or rejections because of incomplete applications can add weeks or months to the process.

Get help from someone familiar with the process or a permit expediter with local knowledge. It can pay dividends.


3. Don’t Bother the Permitting Department Staff

When radio silence from the planning department extends longer than you’d like, a natural reaction is to start sending status update requests. Avoid this impulse. Every reply these professionals need to send takes them away from completing and processing applications.


4. Use Electronic Submittal Options 

COVD has accelerated the shift to a digital application and virtual review process. Many jurisdictions are adopting electronic plan review (ePlan) software like ProjectDox. Get familiar with how these systems work. If the city or county you’re working in offers an ePlan system, take advantage of it. In addition to streamlining the application process, some of these systems let you access your application status.


5. Make All Requested Corrections

As drawings come back, you will likely receive correction requests about updates needed to align with building code. Make these corrections. In normal times, plan check professionals can get a little testy when they have to ask for changes twice. And these are not normal times.

If you need help with your permit applications or want support managing the process, schedule time to talk with one Permit Place’s permit experts.

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