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Frequently Asked Questions & Helpful Tips

- Construction Permit Tips for Homeowners -



Q:  Remodeling or adding improvements to your home?

A: Homeowners thinking about remodeling their home or adding other improvements, such as decks, spas or retaining walls, many times have a number of questions about the building permits.

This information is designed to give homeowners basic knowledge of when construction permits and other approvals are required by the City of Calabasas. It also answers some of the most frequently asked questions and offers tips from the City.

Q: What are permits and why do I need one?
A:  Permits are the way the City of Calabasas regulates construction. This is designed to ensure that all construction in the city is safe. The safety of the occupants in buildings is the primary reason for having construction codes. The City of Calabasas has adopted several codes, among them the 2010 California Building, Residential, Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing codes.  In addition, there are federal, state and local laws that govern construction, such as those covering energy conservation.

Obtaining the permit is just the first step in the process. In this step, you may need to create plans to submit to the department, make a plot plan for your property showing the improvements, and show the type of construction you’ll be using.

The City has handouts to help you through this process.

Once plans are approved, you’re required to build the project according to those plans. If any changes are made to the plans, they must be made with the City’s approval.

The second half of the process is the inspection of the work. For more information about the inspection process go to Inspection - Frequently Asked Questions.

Q: When do I need a construction permit?
A: A construction permit is needed for all new construction. In many cases, a permit is needed for repair or replacement of existing fixtures, such as replacing windows. A plumbing, electrical, or a mechanical permit maybe needed for any addition or changes to a building’s existing system; for example, moving or adding an electrical outlet, replacing a water heater or replacing a heating or air conditioning unit.
Q: When don't I need a permit?
A: A construction permit is not needed for items such as painting, papering, tiling, carpeting, cabinets, counter tops, small storage sheds of 120 SF of less (some exceptions apply), portable heating or cooling appliances, the clearing of stoppages in pipes, valves or fixtures, retaining walls less than 3 feet tall (unless supporting a surcharge), and in several other cases. Please click here for the Work Exempt from Permits handout.

Fences 6 feet high or lower do not generally require permits. Nevertheless, the Planning Department may regulate fence height, location and type. If you are uncertain about your project, a telephone call or visit to the Planning Department may save time and headaches. Additional reviews may be required from other agencies; be sure to check before building.

Q: How do I get a building permit?
A: After construction plans are completed, submit the plans for plan check at the Building & Safety Division at City Hall. Often, small projects can be approved over-the-counter; larger projects may require more time to allow for review by various City departments. Usually, replacement roofs, doors or windows, air conditioners or heaters can be approved over-the-counter. For a complete list of over-the-counter type projects, go to Over-the-Counter Plan Review Thresholds.
Q: How long does it take to get a permit?
A: Permit issuance periods vary. Some projects can be fully permitted over-the-counter, meaning a return trip won’t be needed. Some projects, however, require that plans be left for additional review. For a complete list of over-the-counter type projects, go to Over-the-Counter Plan Review Thresholds.
Q: What agencies or departments will need to review my plans?
A: Other government agencies may need to review and approve your project. For example, grease interceptors require County Health Department approval as well as City approval. After your plans have been submitted, the City will make you aware of other government agencies which will need to review the plans.   This is why we require that you submit multiple sets of plans. To learn more about the plan review process see Plan Review - Frequently Asked Questions.
Q: What if I don't get a permit?
A: If a permit, when needed, is not obtained before construction, you have violated City codes and regulations. You’ll be required to obtain permits for the work and expose all aspects of the work so that it can be inspected or you’ll have to return the structure or site to its original condition.

Complications may occur at time of sale. Many lenders will not fund a loan for the sale of a house if it has non-permitted construction. Sometimes non-permitted construction must be modified or torn down. For example, holes may have to be punched in walls to make sure the framing, wiring, and plumbing meet the code requirements. codes were created for safety reasons. Work built without a permit can be unsafe, no matter how good it looks.

Q: Who should obtain the permit?
A: Contractors licensed by the State of California or your authorized agent can obtain permits. The homeowner can also obtain the permits. If an authorized agent of the homeowner or of the contractor is going to be pulling the permits, then they must present an Authorized Agent form with notarized signatures at the time of permit issuance. For down-loadable Authorized Agent forms go to the General Information: Handouts/Drawings/Forms page of our web site.
Q: Can I do the work myself or do I have to hire a contractor?
A: You can do the work yourself, but you must follow certain regulations. Among them are the following:
Workers’ Compensation:
If you will be hiring anyone, you may have to purchase Workers’ Compensation Insurance, which is available from a variety of agencies. If you won’t be hiring anyone, we’ll ask you to sign an "Owner-Builder Statement" to this effect. We can’t issue you a permit without either insurance or the completed Owner-Builder Statement.
Build to the plans:
Be sure to follow your approved plans, whether they are drawn by an architect or designer or are standard construction requirements given to you by the City. If you change the plans while building the structure, this will cause problems when the project is inspected. If you decide to make changes, check with the City’s plan review staff or your field inspector.
Q: What about inspections?
A: It is your responsibility to call us for inspections at specific times during construction. You may have your contractor make the call, but it is still your responsibility, as the property owner, to make sure the inspections are made. Inspections are made during certain points in the project, depending on the work that’s being performed. For example, retaining walls require inspections of the footing, after block is laid and steel placed but before grouting, and when all work is finished.  For more information, please see the section "When to call for Inspections".

Remember. . . the project is not complete for legal purposes until it has passed the final inspection.

Q: How long is a permit good for?
A: Every permit issued shall become invalid unless the work on the site authorized by such permit is commenced within 180 days after issuance or if the work authorized on the site by such permit is suspended or abandoned for a period of 180 days after the time the work is commenced. The Building Official is authorized to grant, in writing, one or more extensions of time, for periods not more than 180 days each. The extension shall be requested in writing and justifiable cause demonstrated.

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