july 2022, issue 2
BRIEFING ON CONSTRUCTION & Some other stuff
Written by TATIANA gUSt
When you build a new house or go through a remodel process there is a set of construction documents that are processed at the local building department prior to proceeding with the work, unless someone did work without a permit! These historical documents are called “Building permit records.” In my experience, these records are available at the local building department for projects done within the last 10 years (after writing this post I found that Florida requires a minimum of 10 year of records retention); however, older projects also may be available depending on the records keeping policy that each jurisdiction currently has.
Some building departments have amazing documentation. I have been able to find records very well maintained in the City of Naples for buildings built in 1960s, just when the building department was founded in that area. Most of these old archives are kept in microfilm and you have to dig through them, but most records custodians are very helpful in the process. With today’s technology, building departments have much more accurate records than they used to, and with the years, they also will have libraries with longer time span, since most of the building departments are processing permits in an electronic format now.
Building departments are government agencies, and as such, they have a way to process public records request. Our corporate office is located in the State of Florida, the “Sunshine State”; our legislators believe in government transparency, therefore all government agencies in our state are regulated by the Sunshine Law. Other states have similar laws and regulations. The Sunshine Law provides access to governmental procedures and records at both state and local levels. Therefore, local government must maintain records available, and these include the records of approved construction drawings and specifications, which if they have them, they have to be made available to you.
So, if you are looking to do a remodel on your recently acquired home, make sure to start by requesting the records available at the building department. In this way, you have a starting point, and at the same time you can verify if anything was done without a permit by a previous owner (this happens when you receive the records and your floor plan is different than the actual building). You don’t know how many times we have seen this, and the new owner is responsible for bringing the unpermitted work into compliance.
I hope this article is helpful to you or someone you may know.
Let me know if you have additional questions about the building codes or construction process. Follow us for more and share our blog here!