Four Things to Know About the Building Code Changes in Philly

If you hang out with developers and architects in Philly, you’ll probably pick up their vibe these days: severe stress.  Why?  Because on April 1st, we get a slew of official changes to the Philadelphia building codes.  Yep, the city of Philadelphia will switch over to the 2018 International Building Code for non-residential construction, and the 2015 International Residential Code for residential construction.  All new zoning permit and building permit applications will be reviewed under the standards of the 2018 IBC and 2015 IRC.  This is probably going to be a mess: plans drawn up under the previous code regime are still under review, and architects and developers may have drafted plans for work under the old codes – only to find that, as of April 1, those plans aren’t up to date.

But it doesn’t have to be a catastrophe!  Prepare now for the changes to the Philadelphia building codes, and it’ll go off without a hitch.  These are the four things you need to know about the upcoming changes to the building code.  (Exclamation points for appropriate dramatic effect.)

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Top Five Things to Know About Philly Permits in 2019

Top Five Things to Know About Philly Permits in 2019

Happy New Year!  Permit Philly hopes everyone has recovered from the Mummer apocalypse and a month of eggnog.  Since we have a brand-new year on our hands, I thought it would be a good idea to review what’s changed in Philadelphia permits over the last year, and explain how the changes affect you.  So here are the top five things to know about Philly permits in 2019.

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Philadelphia Code Violation

This scaffolding is a Philadelphia code violation without the proper permits.

Contractors fear them.  Old real estate brokers shiver at their mention.  Property owners try to pretend they don’t exist, though those property owners also feel a chill in their spines.  In much the same way Old Nan warned Bran of the White Walkers, experienced Philadelphia developers and homeowners warn newcomers of that greatest of terrors:  a Philadelphia Code violation.

When Philly’s Department of Licenses and Inspections finds a property illegally used or under unlawful construction – think building a house without a permit, or opening a restaurant without a food license – L&I issues a “notice of violation and order.”  This notice should, according to the Code, be a written document which tells the owner of the property the nature of the Philadelphia Code violation, what can be done to address the violation, and how long the owner has to fix the problem.

These things are terrifying: if L&I decides that the owner isn’t complying with the Philadelphia Code violation notice, L&I can shut down operations at the property.  It can also take the owner or operator responsible to court to force them to address the problem or shut down the project.  And to be clear, this includes businesses that are already up and running: the Philadelphia Code says specifically that “the premises shall be vacated of all employees, patrons and occupants” once a Cease Operations Order is in effect.

If you want to argue your case in court, or parse exactly what counts as a violation, you will need a lawyer – and Permit Philly is happy to recommend some!  But if you want to just comply with the City’s order and get it over with, here’s how to make sense of a Philadelphia Code violation on your property – and the steps to clear it up.

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Top Five Things Realtors Should Know About Philly Permits

Top five things realtors should know about Philly permits

Realtors ask me a lot of questions about permits.  They want to know what they’re allowed to do with a property in Philly, how to get a legal construction project off the ground, and how to get rental licenses (so many rental licenses).  Some of these questions are specific to one project.  But some apply to almost any property in the City of Philadelphia.  I’ve culled the most common questions and areas of interest to give you the top five things every realtor should know about Philly permits.

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How to Open a Restaurant in Philadelphia

how to open a restaurant in philadelphia — like these ones on South Street

You’re ready to open a restaurant in Philadelphia.  You have everything you need: a great building, all the right equipment on order, a dedicated team, and some amazing recipes.  Now you just need to get a food license from the City of Philadelphia.  Is that just one form?  Maybe a little inspection?

Not quite.  While you do need an inspection from the Health Department to operate a restaurant, and there is a simple form that says “Food License,” actually getting complete approval to open a restaurant in Philadelphia can be a long and complicated journey.  As Philly Health Commissioner Thomas Farley once said, “The night is dark and full of terrors.”

Okay, maybe he didn’t actually say that.  But getting officially certified to open a restaurant in Philadelphia can be a nightmare if you don’t know what you’re in for.  Fear not!  Permit Philly is here to break down the process for you.

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Rezoning Property in Philadelphia

Rezoning Property in Philadelphia: RSA to Multi-Family

We interrupt Permit Philly’s zoning guide for an important message.

In this blog we’ve been slowly progressing through the Philadelphia Zoning Code’s classification of properties (if you’d like to see the series, click here).  But today we’re not going to do that: today, we’re going to talk about rezoning property in Philadelphia.  Specifically, we’re going to answer the question seemingly everyone has about multifamily buildings in Philadelphia:

Can I re-zone my single-family building as a multi-family building?

Nope!  Next question.

Okay; it’s a little more complicated than that.  Let’s take this step by step:

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Philadelphia Zoning Guide: RSA Zoning

Welcome to Permit Philly’s RSA Zoning Guide!

If you’d like to see the other parts of this series, click here.

Hello again!  After last week’s discussion of commercial zoning in Philly, it’s time for some lighter reading in our Philadelphia zoning guide: residential zoning!  Specifically: RSA zoning districts!

I can feel your excitement.

But this stuff is important, because most of Philly is zoned residential.  Most of the zoning or permitting cases I’ve worked on involve a homeowner asking, “Can I do                with my house?”

You are more than welcome to contact Permit Philly to ask that or any other question.  But in the meantime, here are some answers to your essential concerns about residential zoning – specifically, Philly’s RSA zoning classification.

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Philadelphia Zoning Guide: CMX Building Overview

Philadelphia Zoing Guide

Welcome to Permit Philly’s Philadelphia Zoning Guide!

I was recently at a neighborhood meeting where a member of the group casually observed that the Philadelphia Code allows for an 8.5-foot-wide garage, but should really allow only a 9.5-foot-wide garage.  If you are this person, you might not need this blog post.  But for most of us in Philly – and especially for developers and ambitious homeowners – It’s useful to go over the uses and general Philadelphia zoning rules about buildings to get a sense of what the City does and doesn’t want.  So here’s our Philadelphia zoning guide series.

First, we’ll handle the commercial buildings that also allow residential use:  Commercial MiXed-use, or CMX.

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After You Apply for a Philly Building Permit

Philly building permit

What Happens After You Apply for a Philly Building Permit?

To apply for a Philly building permit, you must create a package of material – usually plans and a set of forms – to submit to the Department of Licenses and Inspections (check out our building permit overview for more on that process).  L&I may not accept the package – they may take a look and decide that your plans aren’t clear enough, or that you have included sheets which don’t apply to the project.  But if all the materials are in order, they’ll accept the application.

So that means you’ll get your permit, right?

Not always.  Just because L&I accepts your package to review doesn’t mean that you’ll get a favorable review.  Here’s a quick summary of everything that can happen to a Philly building permit application once it enters the L&I conveyor belt.

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Philadelphia Building Permits

Philadelphia building permit

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Philadelphia Building Permits

Whether you’ve just bought your first house or are an experienced contractor, a Philadelphia building permit can be a confusing document.  Not the permit itself: the process of getting the permit.  Depending on the project, there might be a lot of documents required to successfully acquire a Philly building permit; and if these documents aren’t prepared in the right way, City departments reject the permit application.  Because of this, Permit Philly has prepared a little guide to help you understand when building permits are needed in our city, and how to apply for them.

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