Need a Permit in Los Angeles? Start with these Important Areas | Building Permits & Code Compliance Blog | Burnham Nationwide

Justin Manalo

Posted by Justin Manalo

breaking_ground.jpgIf you’re getting ready to break ground on a new building or demolishing an old one to start over, the obvious answer is “yes.” But what if you’re remodeling an existing structure? The answer could be “no” or “it depends.”

Before you schedule the construction crew or take a sledgehammer to your home’s back wall, a little research will go a long way toward preventing frustrating – and expensive – delays due to a missing or incorrect Los Angeles construction permit.

Conduct a Property Search

Researching the history of a property used to involve a lengthy and inconvenient trip to the Los Angeles Building and Safety Records counter. Now the same search can be performed online with a few clicks of a mouse.

There are over 13 million property records for Los Angeles County, dating back to 1905. In them, you’ll find information such as:

  • Permits
  • Building modification appeals and approvals
  • Grading files
  • Commission files
  • Certificate of occupancy
  • Past code violations and resolutions
  • Legal description of the property, including zoning
  • Descriptions of permitted projects done on the property
  • Approvals and denials of permit and permit variance requests
  • Information on specific requirements for properties in “Overlay” or “Specific Plan” areas

Determine the Type of Permit You Need

For very small DIY projects that don’t alter the existing property characteristics, you may not need a permit at all. If you’re replacing a gas water heater, you can bypass the permit review process for an Express Permit, if the contractor doing the work is licensed and certified.

Medium-sized, less complex projects that might involve moving, replacing, or modifying a property’s use definition, plumbing, gas lines, grading, electrical systems, floor plan, footprint, etc. will probably require a permit. However, there’s a good chance you could use’s online express permitting system, or get a simple, in-person plan check in under an hour.

More complex projects that require multiple permits will need to be done the old-fashioned way. At this level is where a mistake could cost you in fees and delays – and where the services of a permitting expert like Burnham Nationwide can be invaluable.

“Obtaining a building permit” is a bit of an oversimplification for bigger projects. The array of permits you might need for your building project can include:

  • Plan approval
  • Work permits
  • Permits to allow for use of heavy construction equipment
  • Environmental permits for features like underground storage tanks, storm water runoff, flood control, etc.
  • Solar/photovoltaic permits
  • Electrical vehicle charger permits
  • Plumbing, electrical, grading, fencing, fire suppression, roads/walks/driveways, trenching, signage, etc.

Submit a Building Plan

Before you begin a project, your plans will be subjected to a plan check to make sure it is complete. The components of a complete plan will be broken out into sections covering:

  • Property grading and excavation
  • Foundation
  • Overall building plan
  • Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Fire suppression

The plan will pass under the scrutiny of an engineer and more often than not, will be returned to you for corrections and revisions. Once the plan is approved, the appropriate Los Angeles building permits will be issued, and construction can begin.

The Los Angeles construction permits process can be much more complex than this brief overview, with plenty of opportunities for the inexperienced owner or contractor to make mistakes. Learn more about how Burnham Nationwide has the expertise to get your building project through the permitting process as smoothly as possible.




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