If you need a building permit in LA, the twist and turns of the approval process may feel like walking through a maze. And on either side of the maze walls will be stacks of paperwork, rules, and regulations.
Is there an easier path to take? The answer is a resounding yes: permit expediting.
In this detailed guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about a Los Angeles permit expediter and their role.
You’ll learn about the permit process in LA and how an expediter can speed up your approval. Read on to learn how to ensure your next project is smooth sailing.
What Is Los Angeles Permit Expediting?
Permit expediting is about streamlining the Los Angeles building permit approval process. This relates to all types of construction and development projects. You normally do this by hiring the services of a permit expediter.
A permit expeditor is a professional with experience and knowledge of the process for construction permits in a location, for example the City of Los Angeles or Los Angeles County. We can help guide your team on local regulations and navigate any bureaucratic procedures.
In additional, permit expediters often have established relationships with plan checkers within the jurisdiction’s planning department. Through these relationships, we have a better sense of what these professionals are looking for in applications, how long processes typically take, and the ability to connect with the right personnel to get answers quickly.
Why Do You Need a Building Permit in Los Angeles?
A building permit is crucial for any construction project. It’s a formal, legal document issued by the government saying that your project complies with local and state building codes.
In LA, building permits are issued by the Los Angeles Department of Building Safety (LADBS).
Permits are required before you begin construction on your project. The alternative is you may be subjected to fines or forced to demolish of parts of your project.
Generally speaking, it’s not something to mess around with.
The Los Angeles Building Permit Process: The Steps
There are multiple steps involved in obtaining a building permit. Here’s what that process looks like in Los Angeles.
Step 1: Zoning and Entitlements
Depending on the type of project and your location, you may be required to get an entitlement before you can get any permits approved.
Entitlements are necessary when you are planning some sort of construction that does not align with the zoning regulations in the area. A common example is a restaurant wanting to serve alcohol in a location that’s never served alcohol before.
Before Los Angeles will review your permit application, they will check to make sure you are properly zoned. If you are not, they will send back your application.
Step 2: Preparing Your Permit Application
You must prepare and submit your building permit application, which will include both completed forms and project documentation.
What’s required with an application varies based on the type of project. For example, new commercial or industrial building construction requirements are more involved than a tenant improvement project of an existing space.
Generally speaking, you need to collate several plans drawn to scale, including:
- Site plans
- Floor layout
- Structural plans
- Mechanical, electrical and HVAC
- Fire sprinklers, smoke detectors and fire alarm systems.
Regarding the LADBS permit application forms, there are specific forms for each type of work being completed, including structural, electrical, plumbing, mechanical and more.
It is critical that your application include all the required forms for your construction project, otherwise the application will be returned with a request for more information. This can add weeks to the approval process.
In addition, it is always a good idea to include a cover sheet with your application. The cover sheet should details the project, what you’re looking to do, and what information you’ve included with your application.
Step 3: The Review Phase to Obtain a Permit
Once you have submitted your application and it is accepted, the LADBS plan check team will begin the review process. Depending on the type of project, your application may be reviewed by one team or several departments, each of which has their own specialization.
They will check your plans against established building code and zoning regulations. Where necessary, background checks and verifications will be conducted.
The timescales for these reviews vary depending on the project’s complexity. For large and comprehensive constructions, the process could take months.
LADBS does offer an online portal through which you can check on the status of your permits. It’s always recommended to check for updates here first rather than emailing or calling the plan check team directly. Every call or email they have to respond to takes them away from reviewing project plans.
Step 4: Corrections and Changes
Once the LADBS has reviewed your plans, they may send back comments or corrections. These notes are intended to get clarification on aspects of your project or request that you make changes to your project to better align with established building codes.
In many cases, you’ll be required to update your plans or respond to comments, and then resubmit your application directly to your plan checker. Once they are satisfied with the responses, you’ll be awarded your permits.
It is vitally important that you make any requested changes and answer fully any questions they have. Every exchange of comments/corrections and responses/updated plans can add weeks to a project. And, just like any other overworked professional, the LADBS plan checkers do not like to have to ask for things twice.
Step 5: Obtaining Your Permit
Once the LADBS is satisfied with your application, you’ll receive notification of a ready-to-issue permit. At this point, an authorized team member will visit LADBS (or go to a designated online portal), make the final fee payments, and then receive the awarded permit(s).
With permits in hand, you can begin construction. Make sure your permits are hung on the construction site where inspectors and city officials can easily view them.
Step 6: Inspection and Approval
At specific milestones throughout the project, an inspector may visit the construction site to ensure aspects of the build are being done to code. An inspection record card will be provided with the permit, and it will state at what phases of the construction process inspections are required. Make sure an inspector has reviewed any part of your project that requires inspection before covering, otherwise you’ll be forced to uncover it.
You’ll get a final inspection once you have completed the construction work. If approved, you’ll get a Certificate of Occupancy. This concludes the construction process and enables you to begin commercial operations.
What is a Permit Expediter?
A permit expediter is a professional service or consultant. They specialize in guiding clients through the process of getting a building permit. Their role in a construction project team is crucial in cities with complex regulations, like Los Angeles.
Permit expediters offer a comprehensive understanding of local building laws and zoning regulations. They also have a great deal of experience working with LADBS on getting projects approved for permits.
A Los Angeles permit expediter will work directly with your entire construction team—from construction to ownership to architects—to build and submit a complete permit application on your behalf.
They’ll also liaise with LADBS plan checkers as they request for more information, and then coordinate with your design team to get comments answered and corrections completed.
Some permit expediters have strong relationships with LADBS personnel. This gives them an understanding of what plan checkers expect to see with different types of projects and how to streamline communications.
Benefits of Hiring a Permit Expediter
To some, permit expediting is a nice-to-have but not an essential piece of the project. In reality, permit expeditors play a critical role in any construction project. Most importantly, we can help avoid delays that can stall construction and the opening of your business, which in turn costs you revenue.
Expeditors Save Building Permit Processing Time
A permit expediter will save you time. Our in-depth knowledge of permit applications in LA gives us an advantage here. We can navigate the process faster and know how to submit a complete application packet the first time.
It Reduces Stress
Getting a construction project off the ground is stressful. California permit expeditors can take some of the burden of your back. We are strategic project managers who can fluently communicate with all members of your project team.
We’ll coordinate across teams and, in some cases, even negotiate on your behalf with the jurisdiction. Our team can remove the stress of working with local governments so you can focus on the myriad other project aspects that require your attention.
Less Time Researching Requirements
California permit expediting means you get someone with experience in the application process. We understand what forms need to be completed, how they need to be filled in, and how your documentation needs to be presented (e.g., number of copies, notarized signatures, etc.).
The alternative is navigating through the LADBS website to figure out what application forms need to be downloaded and completed, and what documentation needs to be submitted (and how).
It Improves Communication With the LADBS
A reputable permit expediter in Los Angeles can offer an established relationship with the LADBS. We understand how they like to communicate and through what channels.
We also understand how long parts of the process typically take, so we don’t bother them prematurely while at the same time proactively reaching out when the process is stalling.
Proactively Address Potential Issues
A permit expediter’s extensive knowledge of the jurisdiction means we can often anticipate issues before they arise. Our experience in similar projects means we can often call out aspects that need to be corrected or accounted for before submitting the application.
How to Choose a Reliable LA Permit Expediter
Choosing the right permit expediting firm can save time and money. The first thing to understand is there are two levels of permit expediting—tactical and strategic. You should look for a firm with a track record of doing both well.
- Tactical Expeditors are good at the procedural aspects of permitting, including due diligence research, plan submittal packages, and providing consistent, quick follow up to comments and questions.
- Strategic Expeditors understand the permitting game at a deeper level. They have relationships with city officials and understand what reviewers expect to see in a permit application. They also know the jurisdiction’s process, typical timetables and internal dynamics, so they can help project owners set realistic expectations and production schedules.
To partner with a permit expeditor who is both strategic and tactical, evaluate prospective agencies using on the following:
- Understanding of the local market.
- Knowledge of expediting strategy options.
- Relationships with key stakeholders.
- Availability of real-time updates and weekly reporting.
- Willingness to update trackers, if needed.
- Interest in attending your design team meetings.
- Plan check fees strategy.
- Issuance strategy.
- Channels of communication—both the number of and frequency.
- Utilization of modern cloud-based solutions (e.g., a client portal).
- Dedicated PSA software for expediting and program management.
- A track record of managing related projects.
- Access to building code databases.
- Process for sharing internal knowledge among team members.
- Systems for continuous team training.
Permit Expediting: Frequently Asked Questions
You may still have some questions about permit expediting. To help with that, here are some handy answers to the most frequently asked questions.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Permit Expediter in Los Angeles?
There is no fixed fee for permit expediter services. What you pay will depend on the size and complexity of your project.
Does Every Project Need a Permit Expediter?
A permit expediter is not mandatory. In some cases, a smaller projects, like moving an HVAC unit or installing a fire sprinkler system, may not require the support of a permit expeditor. However, when you get into structural changes or projects that require multiple permits, an expeditor can be very valuable.
What Happens if My Application Gets Rejected?
Typically, rejections happen because you haven’t complied with the relevant regulations despite multiple requests or you’re improperly zoned for the type of business you’re operating. For this reason, it’s helpful to understand what’s required upfront and to respond quickly and completely to any correction requests.
Does a Permit Expediter Guarantee a Successful Application?
A permit expediter will boost your odds of getting successful approval for your initial application. But this isn’t set in stone. The LADBS has overall control over the process.
If your building doesn’t comply with LA’s regulations, they will reject your application. The best way to avoid this is to listen to the permit expediter’s recommendations and take their advice as much as possible.
Does a Permit Expediter Run Inspections?
A permit expediter won’t run the inspections. These will get done by the LADBS. However, we can assist with these onsite inspections.
Getting a Los Angeles Permit Expediter
The complexity of the permit process doesn’t have to overwhelm your construction project. By using a Los Angeles permit expediter, you can delegate this important task to someone with deep knowledge of the process and jurisdiction. This will ensure you get a seamless, efficient approval process that won’t slow you down.
If you are ready to start this journey, learn more about our permit expediting services. Our experienced team is here to offer you invaluable support for your next LA construction project.