Serving New Jersey Clients Since 1977

Do you always need a building permit to make improvements?

If you are planning to make improvements to a building that you own, such as a commercial property or a multifamily dwelling, do you need to obtain a building permit first? It depends. Generally speaking, if you plan to make any significant structural, plumbing, HVAC or electrical changes, you have to get a building permit first.

However, according to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, certain types of projects that you may decide to undertake require less oversight.

Minor work

Minor work includes projects such as installing alarm systems, replacing water heaters, installing drinking fountains or implementing radon mitigation. While minor work does require a building permit in New Jersey, you do not have to wait to receive the permit before you begin the work.

Ordinary maintenance

Ordinary maintenance refers to the things you have to do on an ongoing basis to keep your building safe and attractive for all its occupants. There is no need to obtain any sort of permit to have ordinary maintenance performed on or in your building.

Ordinary maintenance generally involves the repair or replacement of a component that is malfunctioning rather than the installation of a whole new component or system in your building. Installations are more likely to fall into the category of minor work and require a permit.

Nevertheless, there are a few exceptions. For example, installing new battery-powered smoke detectors or communications wiring would fall into the category of ordinary maintenance and therefore not require a building permit. Whether the new component is part of the building’s structure or not also makes a difference. If it does not involve the overall structure, you could probably consider it ordinary maintenance. If it is part of the structure, it would probably be minor work that requires you to obtain a permit.