Understanding Permitting for your Remodel/ Renovation

Before selecting a contractor for your project it is important to understand that various contractors can approach your project differently.

When having your apartment or brownstone remodeled one key component to understand is a building permit. A building permit is an official approval issued by the local governmental agency that allows you or your contractor to proceed with a construction or remodeling project on your property. Its purpose is to ensure that the project plans comply with local standards and regulations for land use, zoning, and construction. These standards are also put in place to ensure the safety of current and future owners.

You may be wondering if you always need a permit for your remodel? The answer is not in all cases, but the best course of action is to get permits no matter what. One of the reasons for this is that your building may have a different set of permitting requirements than New York City. Below are some frequently asked questions and the answers about permits.

Is there more than one type of permit?

Below is a list of permit types. Your contractor can best guide you on which types you will need.

  • Alteration 1
  • Alteration 2
  • Alteration 3
  • LAA – Limited Alteration Application Permit
  • OT – General Construction Permit
  • PL – Plumbing Permit
  • MC – Mechanical Permit
  • FA – Fire Alarm
  • Demolition & Removal
  • Mechanical/HVA
  • Scaffold
  • Foundation/Earthwork
  • Other-General Construction, Partitions, Marquees, BPP (Builder Pavement Plan)
  • Boiler
  • Plumbing
  • Fire Alarm

Who must file a permit?

The majority of construction (projects or licensed professionals) require a Department of Buildings permit. Most often, a New York State licensed Professional Engineer (PE), Registered Architect (RA), Master Plumber, Master Electrician, must file plans and pull permits before work begins but usually an expeditor is hired to file and pull the permit on the behalf of the licensed professional.


What is the process for obtaining a permit?

The chart below prepared by the New York City Department of Buildings shows how the permitting process works:

What could happen if you don’t have a permit?

Not having a permit can result in many problems for you. For example, the Department of Buildings could issue a stop-work order where no additional work can be done on your renovation plus charge you a hefty fine. This will result in delayed completion of your remodel and will also increase costs. For example, if you are paying interest on a mortgage waiting to move into your new apartment, this is interest you would not have incurred if the project was completed sooner.


Here’s a real-life example of what happened to a couple with two children who did not file a permit:

(The chairman of the board of directors or A new member of the board of directors?) was in the building where their kitchen was being renovated.

The Department of Buildings (DOB) didn’t show up, and Con Edison showed up at their door. Con Edison observed new piping and put a lock on the meter. Con Edison called the DOB, and there was an inspector there the next day. The inspector issued a stop-work order, and the couple had to spend over $5,000 in fees to have someone handle this situation. They had to pay the DOB fees, the project was held up 60 days, and they didn’t have gas in their apartment. They didn’t have a kitchen so with four-month-old newborn things were difficult. Because they didn’t pull just the plumbing permit, they had to get an alteration two permit, which required them to hire an architect, which was another +$5,000 cost. And get an alteration two permits, which is the construction permit, had to file the plumbing permit, which still cost them $1500 for the plumbing permit, plus a construction permit, plus the cost of having an architect draw plans and file it with the DOB. There total added cost was $15,000. (This is confusing and needs to be reworked – not sure how to do it myself without potentially messing it up)

Although your contractor should be handling permit related matters, it is important to be aware of what permits are and how they work to ensure that your remodel is what you want, when you want, and at the price you want.

Do I need a permit to remodel my kitchen?

Yes, you do need a permit to remodel your kitchen. Getting a permit for a kitchen is a building management decision. A lot of things in New York City can get overlooked. You should check with your building management company and ask them what the requirements are for getting approved to do work in your building.

The scope of the work is also a factor. Are you just replacing fixtures in the exact same location, are you moving fixtures, or are you adding a fixture? Are you replacing the plumbing pipes? Are you upgrading your electric? Removing a wall?

You’re allowed to take down up to seventy square feet without a permit. Regardless, your building could require you to pull a permit and to verify that the walls that you are removing are not structural. If you are touching or moving a gas line, you must pull a permit.

At the end of the day getting a permit always boils down to what the building management company/alteration agreement requires. In general, pulling a permit is a smart idea because if a neighbor complains about hearing the work being done, they may call the Department of Buildings who, when they don’t see a permit, could write up your project as a violation. A violation could result in a stop-work order and a huge fine which could impact the overall cost and completion date of your project.

In summary deciding when you need to pull a permit can be a complicated decision for someone who does not know the intricacies of this process. That’s why it is important to appoint a reliable and knowledgeable construction company who can navigate this process for you.

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