A Permit Expediter’s Guide to Austin, TX
Austin, Texas: a place you can find amazing barbeque, fantastic live bands, and a notoriously complicated permitting process. In 2015, Zucker Systems issued a report detailing Austin’s weaknesses in their planning and building department. They go into detail the exorbitantly high costs and wait time that Austin business owners must suffer through just to receive a building permit. For a commercial project, it is estimated that time to complete zoning and permitting could be 12 to 14 months. This puts a large strain, both in time and money, on potential businesses delayed in opening. While Austin has tried to offer remedies after the 2015 report came out, like an expedited process, limited staff still proves to be their biggest deterrent to a more efficient system. High demand for the expedited building plan review team means that clients must wait months to even meet with the team.
Permit Advisors has worked closely with the City of Austin for years. We have completed numerous, complex projects located in Austin and we know the struggles that people face firsthand. Using our knowledge and experience, we have put together a starter guide to navigate the tricky city of Austin, TX.
WHEN DO I NEED A PERMIT?
The City of Austin requires a permit when you plan to “erect, construct, enlarge, alter, repair, improve, remove, convert, move, or demolish” a building or space within the city’s jurisdiction. However, some projects that are smaller in scope, and is not likely to change the property’s physical structure in a significant way, may not need a permit. It’s important to look at the full list of renovations that do not need a permit at the Austin Development Services Department website.
HOW DO I GET A PERMIT?
In Austin, the Commercial Plan Review Division handles all requests for commercial projects. Participants in this review process include staff from the: Building Department, Fire Department, Austin Water Utility, and the Austin/Travis County Health Department.
The Commercial Plan Review Division offers several different review types that could be beneficial to familiarize yourself with:
- Quick Turn Around: for small interior remodels; typically approved on the same day
- Preliminary Plan Review: a meeting to discuss preliminary designs and potential construction issues
- Concurrent Review: a general review of permit application
- Demolitions: for complete demolitions of commercial buildings and interior spaces
Review times vary based on Scope of Work and size of the project and doing your proper Due Diligence before any submittals is crucial. Permit Advisors offers an included Due Diligence service that makes sure there are no mistakes made when submitting for a permit. This way we can guarantee time and money saved throughout the entire permitting process.
Once your permit is reviewed and approved, be sure to schedule an inspection through the city which is required for any building permit. The Building Inspection Division conducts these inspections and their purpose is to double-check that the project followed all guidelines in the permit and meets the relevant health and safety codes. Inspections can occur either during construction or once construction is complete, however, permits expire after 180 days so receiving an inspection in that timeframe is mandatory.
HOW TO AVOID DELAYS
There is no one way to avoid delays. There will be times that you are 100% positive everything is set and ready for approval and the city can throw you a curveball that derails you. It’s important to stay calm, do your proper research, and strategize with your city to make sure that the chance of error is as low as possible.
On the chance that your permit is rejected, don’t worry. While the thought of spending more time and money on re-doing the permitting process can be stressful, understand that it is a common occurrence and to learn from the mistakes while moving forward.
The City of Austin has a Development Assistance Center that offers resources to anyone seeking a building permit. They will answer your questions thoroughly and guide you through the permitting process if you are unfamiliar with it.
When in doubt, often the best solution to navigating a complicated jurisdiction is hiring an expert to take care of everything for you. Permit Advisors has worked with countless companies to ensure that their permitting experience in Austin is as smooth and efficient as possible. With our guidance, navigating the complex City of Austin will be a breeze.
If you’d like to speak to a Permit Advisors Project Manager with vast experience working in Austin, TX, please free to call us at (310) 275-7774 and we’ll answer any questions you may have.