About the Building Division

Important Updates

Notice of Permit Tolling and Lifting of COVID State of Emergency (PDF)

As of February 16, 2021 a “Building Permit Submittal Checklist” is required to be completed and uploaded to the permit file along with all of the required documents per the checklist for the application to be considered complete.

Per the State and City announcements as of May 29, 2021 safety plans addressing Covid-specific hazards will no longer be required as part of the building permit application. The City is evaluating making detailed site-specific safety plans a permanent requirement for building permit applications in the future. An announcement will be made prior to implementation.

Starting May 29, 2021, per Ordinance 2021-09, a completed construction safety affidavit will be required to be submitted as part of the permit application. A copy of the construction safety affidavit is available here.

Beginning July 1, 2020, a 0.35% safety review and inspection fee with a minimum fee of $100.00 will be assessed to all new building permit applications.

Electrical, plumbing, and gas subcontractors working for a general contractor with an approved safety plan and building permit are not subject to a separate fee.

Permits for electrical, plumbing and gas work that is not associated with a building permit will be charged a $25.00 safety review and inspection fee for each permit.

Plumbing, gas, and electrical contractors may in the alternative submit annual safety plans for work not associated with a building permit.  These plans will be kept on file and used when performing safety inspections.  The fee for filing an annual electrical, plumbing, and gas safety plan will be $250.



Permitted construction is able to commence/recommence under the conditions that a sufficient Jobsite Hazard Analysis (JHA), Site Specific Safety Plan (SSSP), and other safety documentation with a particular focus on COVID safety in accordance with state and federal guidelines on COVID spread prevention is provided to and approved by ISD. All other pre-COVID conditions and requirements remain in full force and effect. 

Examples of a JHA and SSSP can be found in the ISD Contractor Safety Package available here.

Ensure a JHA and SSSP are uploaded to the General Contractor’s primary building permit in Citizenserve, or if there is none, to the individual permit application (i.e. Electric, Gas, or Plumbing permit):

Required measures for safety documentation include but are not limited to the following:

  • All workers on the site must wear clean face coverings, masks, or face shield which cover their nose and face, unless unable due to a medical condition or is otherwise exempted by Department of Public Health guidance.
  • A sign-in/sign-out log must be maintained for all persons on site (including deliveries).
  • Hand tools are not to be shared
  • Limit the number of people that reside in different locations traveling in the same vehicle
  • Sanitization procedures and handwashing availability
  • Social Distancing
  • Site Health Checks and/or Self-Health-Certification Checks prior to shift
  • Limiting individuals present at time of inspection if practical

As an alternative to a physical sign-in sheet as well as a self-certification form, you can use an electronic version that will be logged with ISD.

Food Service

  • In addition to takeout and delivery services, restaurants may reopen for indoor and outdoor dining with additional safety measures.
  • Grocery stores, convenience stores and “corner” stores are allowed to remain open and shall practice social distancing requirements to the fullest extent possible
  • No non-prepackage self-service food is allowed for purchase i.e. salad bars, olive bars, etc.



The Building Division of the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) provides, permitting, plan review, inspections, and related services in order to ensure compliance with the Massachusetts State Building Code and Somerville Zoning Ordinance.

Responsibilities include:

  • Reviewing plans and issuing permits to homeowners, licensed contractors or architects
  • Conducting field inspections on building permits, certificates of occupancy, certificates of inspection, fire escapes, requests from homeowners and contractors
  • Responding to complaints received by homeowners, tenants or contractors to ensure a safe and clean environment
  • Representing the City of Somerville in court for violations of the Somerville Zoning Ordinance and/or State Regulations
  • Responding to emergencies as requested by the Somerville Fire Department
  • Coordinating with the Somerville Fire Department, Health Department, and the Department of Public Works
  • Registering and regulating newspaper boxes in the City
  • Building Permits

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 [email protected].

New Building Permit Issuance Policy (as of 10/1/2019)

As of October 1, 2019, any project that requires a poured foundation as part of the project construction will only be issued a foundation permit to begin construction. The project will only receive the full building permit after an as-built of the foundation work has been submitted and compliance with the approved plans is confirmed.

Any project that includes a poured foundation and has received a building permit, but has not had a foundation inspection will be required to submit a foundation as-built as part of the foundation inspection.

This does not alleviate the requirement that all required construction documents be submitted with a permit application; complete project plan set, all relative affidavits, all relative licenses, and insurance, etc.