The facts about commercial building permits

Navigating the myriad permitting requirements for your new store can be treacherous, so why go it alone? Even the most seasoned veterans in the retail business world can find permitting overwhelming in terms of time, money, and paperwork required to complete it. However, it’s a necessary step in getting your space built and your doors open for business.

And here is a little known and often misunderstood fact. Obtaining a permit is not the responsibility of your architect or contractor. It falls squarely on your shoulders. And trying to build without a proper permit can lead to even bigger troubles - please don't try it!

Conceptually, the permitting process seems simple. With plans in hand the franchisee files the documents with the building department, which reviews the documents to ensure that the plans meet locally adopted codes and regulations. Then a permit is issued. That's it!

The fact is that the process can vary greatly from city to city. So, your first experience may not be at all like your second. And even within the same city you may have a different experience depending on the personnel involved. Some agencies require plans and documents to be filed in person. Others use an electronic filing system. Some require an expediter and others will even allow for self certification.

Most cities follow the international building codes, but many have also adopted additional rules and regulations you must adhere to. So, just because you were allowed to do something in one place doesn't mean you can do it everywhere.The process becomes even more complicated if your franchise is related to food service or health services. In those instances, separate permits will likely be required from the health departments. And depending on what you are building, you may be required to submit to the planning, fire or water departments as well.

Once plans have been filed, the building department reviews all of the documents. Usually agencies will route your plans through all the other required departments for you. But this is not always the case, especially with health departments, which may be a separate agency run by the state or county. After the first review the permitting office will provide feedback with required revisions. Once those revisions are incorporated into the plans, they must be resubmitted for a snd review, which generally takes less time than the initial review. And in some cases, additional reviews could be required.

Depending on the location, the total permitting process can range anywhere from an hour (with an over the counter permit) to a couple of months. Be aware if you have something like outdoor dining or a drive through. It can take several more months if rezoning or use permits are required. Based on our experience, the average time to obtain a full permit is usually around six to eight weeks.

For the average franchisee, whether this is their first business or 31st, having to go it alone on permitting is simply a frustrating waste of valuable time. As a result, many franchisees partner with us to help them navigate the process and handle all of the details ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks.

Using to manage and troubleshoot permitting can certainly help speed up the process. Having a knowledgeable partner ensures that the process runs smoothly and that your project won’t be delayed by missed deadlines, misunderstandings, or other missteps that could easily trip up even the most experienced franchisee.

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