Permit Expediting Services: Working a Process or Executing a Solution? Part I
These last couple of weeks I’ve explained how to vet a permit expediter, what is it they do, and now I want to make the case that permit expediting services should be about executing a solution rather than working a process. In this article I’m going to explain the difference between the two philosophies and show you how you can know which type of firm you’re vetting. Before diving in I do want to straight out tell you that Permit Advisors executes solutions for your commercial building permits and suggests you find a firm that does the same.
The Permit Expediting Process (aka The Problem)
Each municipality or Jurisdiction Having Authority (JHA) makes their permit approval process public, and most folks can figure out not only what the process is but also the programs those JHA’s have put in place to make the process more streamlined. For reference I’m including an example from the City of Los Angele’s website:
Additionally, cities (like LA) have programs for commercial projects based on size and scope where they will help push out permits for projects that will be safe for the public.
Now that I have those facts out of the way let’s talk about the process most permit expediting services worship. The permit expediting process usually follows a straight-forward progression:
- Plans are pre-screened at the counter of the JHA by a clerk looking to reject plans and save their bosses time. Items they are looking for are basic: formatting, codes that are typically misinterpreted, and even ensuring the plans are stapled in the correct way the planchecker likes! For example, I know in some places every trade needs to be included in one package for the planchecker. So, building, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and structural need to be in one big fat cylinder for the planchecker to look at. While other JHA’s want the trades to be separated out.
- Once the plans have been in-taken the JHA will tell you how long the plancheck process takes. If your project qualifies for a plan most permit expediting services will make you aware of those programs. From there, all you can do is wait. Some permit expediting services will say they “proactively monitor” the process. In reality, all they can do is call or email once a day and risk jeopardizing the relationship with the city.
- The JHA will issue comments on the plans and call the person who applied for the permit. Here is where most process-method firms will hink your project up: depending on their competing priorities they will pick up the plans when it is convenient for them.
- Theoretically, the permit expediter should get the comments as well as the correction letter back to the architect so they can get back to work. Again, this is dependent on when they, in fact, pick up the plans.
- After receiving the revised set of plans the re-submittal is coordinated.
After step 5, if the project is not approved the project will repeat steps 2-5 until approval is received. In the meantime, plancheck fees will be racking up as the city official uses their time on your project.
At face value, this process and having someone manage it seems like a good formula for getting your permits from permit expediting services, however think about a couple of things:
- At any point in the process, if there is a delay, the permit timeline is blown. If the architect takes too long in issuing a revised set to your service. If the permit expediting service doesn’t pick up the comments right away. If the permit expediting firm doesn’t submit the plans when they told you they already did. Lastly, what if the city has influx of projects due to a new large project and pushes your to side?
- Permit expediting services that take a process approach usually charge per action taken on your behalf whether or not your project was pushed forward in the queue. For example, they submitted second round corrections to the city on your behalf after waiting however long for the revised set of plans and report back the city-approved times. They will charge for the resubmission but basically just couriered the plans.
- The process is a public process and is freely discussed at public hearings and meetings; therefore, you can hire a temp to learn the process and manage it.
As it stands, in my opinion, if you are thinking about hiring process driven permit expediting services you should save yourself some money and hire yourself a courier. No, really, because process-driven permit expediting services are professional permit couriers.