When is a Building Permit Required? Anyone seeking to construct, reconstruct, alter, repair, or demolish a structure or install a sign must first obtain a building permit at the Inspectional Services Division (ISD). Per Somerville Zoning Ordinance and Massachusetts State Building Code (780 C.M.R.), a building permit must be obtained before the start of any work and must be prominently displayed at the job site. Sign permits and demolition permits are categories of building permits, which are required by the Building Code. Follow this link for information about Demolition Permits. A building permit signifies that the proposed use or structure is meeting zoning prerequisites (e.g.; setback, frontage, or minimum yard-size requirements) and the State Building Code. Ordinary repairs, as defined in the Building Code, such as painting and tiling, do not require a building permit. If you are unsure if you require a building permit or to schedule a preliminary meeting with a building inspector please call ISD at 617-625-6600 ext. 5600, or e-mail at kcomosomervillema [dot] gov.
For more information on "Doing Business in Somerville," see the Somerville Business Development Initiative.
When and where are permits issued? Because the building permits are currently on carbon copy paper, they can not be accessed online. To pick up a copy of the building permit form, please visit Inspectional Services at 1 Franey Road, Somerville, MA 02145. Building inspectors are available to help assist with forms from 8:00 A.M. to 10:00 A.M. or from 3:00 P.M. to 3:45 P.M. If you would like to view an example of the Building Permit to determine what information is required, please see Building Permit Example in the Forms Library. Also available in the Forms Library: Application for Certificate of Inspection, Application for Demolition of Structures, and Certificate of Good Standing.
Who can obtain a building permit and what other permits will be required? The permit requirements are determined by City and State regulations. The following serves as an outline. Please see the City Ordinances to view complete and up-to-date information. For general permit information, please view the chart.
* Homeowners of one or two family and owner-occupied buildings may obtain the building permit as the owner. If a one or two family building is not occupied by the owner, or for any three or more family buildings, a licensed contractor must obtain the Building Permit. For all commercial property, a licensed contractor must obtain the Building Permit. When homeowners are issued building permits, they are liable for contractors working on their property, and they are not eligible for protection under the provisions of the Homeowners Improvement Contractor Law. For these reasons, Inspection Services encourages homeowners to have the building permit taken out by a properly licensed contractor.
Building Permit Process:
Step 1: Submit completed Building Permit Application to ISD and pay applicable fees (see fee schedule, below)
A completed application will include:
- Scaled drawings showing the extent of work to be performed
- Detailed information and qualifications of the owner, applicant, contractor, architect
- Information about existing and proposed use
- Summarized cost estimate
- Detailed project description
- Certificate of Good Standing (Treasurer's Office at City Hall)
- Preliminary cost Affidavit (Final Cost Affidavit submitted at end of construction)
Step 2: Receive Permit from ISD or Make modifications/ Supply additional documents
Often with "Remove and Replace" types of construction or work of a minor nature, such as re-building a porch of the same size and location as the existing porch, a building permit may be issued over the counter. However, depending on the complexity of the project, you may need to supply the following document(s):
- Certified plot plan
- Three (3) wet signed and stamped building plan sets
- Worker's Compensation Form
- Insurance Form
The wet signed and stamped building plan sets are required when the size of the planned structure will be different from that of the existing structure. For instance, if a new porch is smaller or larger than the existing porch, the applicant must include drawings of the existing porch as well as drawings of the planned porch with the application. For more complex projects, the plans must include existing layout as well as proposed changes including all fire suppression, emergency lighting, plumbing, and electrical plans. Inspectional Services has up to 30 days to review the plans to ensure they meet Mass State Building Code for Somerville and respond to the applicant.
Step 3: Review of application by plans reviewer
The plans reviewer will review all applications for permits within 30 days after filing. If the proposed work does not conform to the requirements of the Somerville Zoning Ordinance, the State Building Code, and all pertinent laws under the building inspector's jurisdiction, the plans reviewer will deny the application in writing. You may also receive a "Denial Letter" that will identify the reasons for denial of your application. You will need to go to the Zoning Board of Appeals to appeal these issues prior to reapplying for a Building Permit. If the proposed work conforms to the requirements of the state building code and all pertinent laws under the building inspector's jurisdiction, the building inspector will issue a permit within 30 days of your filing date.
Step 4: Posting of building permit on jobsite
Once a building permit has been issued, it must be posted in plain view, on the jobsite, and kept on the premises, during the entire time the work is being performed.
Step 5: ISD inspection of project during construction
The building inspector will inform you of the required number of inspections to be made during the construction process. Various inspections must occur at different stages of the construction process. The back of the Building Permit card has the order of inspections required, and the applicant must follow this order of inspections in the construction process. Upon completion of the work, it is the applicant's responsibility to make an appointment with ISD for the final inspection.
Step 6: Submit affidavit, if required (cost of construction is greater than $50,000).
Step 7: If necessary, apply for a Certificate of Occupancy
Most renovations to existing one and two family homes DO NOT require a Certificate of Occupancy because the use of the property remains the same. However, if the use of the building changes, such as a two family home being converted to a one family home or a former restaurant being turned into a day care, a Certificate of Occupancy is necessary.
Fee Schedule: Please note that if you have started construction on a project without the appropriate building permit, you must stop work immediately. Work done without a building permit will be charged three times the permit fee that would regularly be charged. You may reduce the risk of facing future enforcement actions by seeking a building permit as soon as possible.
Additionally, please note that work must commence within six months of the date all permits are issued or they will expire. However, extensions may be requested in writing, and they may or may not be granted in writing by ISD Superintendent. If you are actively working on a project, the permit does not expire.