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Business :: Real Estate :: Hawaii Real Estate Coach :: When Do You Need Building Permits?

When Do You Need Building Permits?

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One of the most frequent violations by homeowners is doing work on their properties without permits. Permit requirements are covered under Chapter 18 of the Building Code for the City and County of Honolulu.

Building Permits Are Required When:

  • Erect, construct, alter, remove or demolish any building or structure (including fences, retaining walls and swimming pools)
  • For any electrical or plumbing work that is greater than $500 in a 12 month period
  • To construct or alter any sidewalk, curb or driveway in public rights of way
Building Permits Are Not Required When:
  • When any electrical or plumbing work is done by a licensed contractor and the value of the work is less than $500 in a 12 month period
  • Curbs, planter boxes, retaining walls and fences which are not more than 30" in height
  • Individual residential TV and radio antennas excluding dish-type antennas
  • Painting, cabinet work, roofing (residential properties) and floor covering
  • Tool and storage sheds not exceeding 120 sq. ft. as accessories to dwellings
  • Repairs using similar or same materials for the purpose of maintenance and which are not more than $1,000 in valuation in any 12 month period and do not affect any electrical and plumbing work.
Information Required on Building Plans:
  • On plot plan, show lot dimensions, locations of driveway & proposed work, distance from property lines, and other buildings, easements and other pertinent information
  • On floor plan, indicate the use of rooms, dimensions, location and sizes of windows, exits, etc.
  • On framing plans or typical section view, show sizes and spacing of beams, floor joists, rafters, etc., and ceiling heights.
  • Exterior elevation views, show height of building
  • Give address, tax map key of the job site and the name and address of owner
  • Give name and address of person who prepared the plans (if other than owner)
When Architect's or Engineer's Seal Is Required:
  • Plans need professional's stamp when 1) work on one story building exceeds $40,000; 2) work on two story building exceeds $35,000; 3) principal structural members are of reinforced concrete or structural steel.

Retaining walls 5 feet or higher must be stamped

Stairways less than 30" in height can be built into the setback. Normal setbacks for residential zoned properties are 10 feet from the road, 5 feet on the side and rear yards for buildings less than 15 feet in height. The setbacks increase when the building is more than 15 feet in height. The height limit for single family home is 25 feet on level land.

If you are an owner builder, you can do one project every two years. You cannot sell, rent or lease the building for one year after the date of completion. 2 years is counted from date of completion. State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) investigates and fines violators. Owners/builders face the potential problem of being the employer of the workers if the workers gets hurt on the job. Insurance, TDI, workmen's comp, etc. should be carried by the owner-builder.

To obtain a permit, General, electrical and plumbing contractors must all sign the permit application.

As built permits - after the fact, illegal additions built without permits must receive permits signed by applicable contractors. All improvements are treated the same as regular building permits and must meet current code - hurricane clips, wind load, live load, structural strength of materials, etc. Penalty is double the normal permit fee and potential civil fines - $50 and up. Owners are given 30 days to obtain permits;  daily fines can be imposed, there is no jail time. The contractor who agrees to sign for the as built permits is verifying that the work is done according to current code even though the work may have been done 25 years ago. The contractor is putting his license at risk for the work that he may not have done if the illegal work was done 20 - 30 years ago. It is difficult to find contractors who are willing to sign for the building permits and if they are willing to sign for the permits, they will charge a fee.

Realtors who list homes that have illegally built additions will need to inform their clients that the appraiser will not give any value to the parts of the house that do not have permits. The seller may have to obtain the as built permits so that the value of the additions can be included in the appraisal.

Ceiling height should be 7'6" for habitable areas and 7' for bathrooms & hallways. If lower than that, the owner must appeal to building board of appeals. Many of the older homes on the lower floors have ceiling heights that are less than 7'6" or 7' and the rooms cannot be called bedrooms or living rooms and need to called storage rooms. The appraiser may not give full value for the portion of the house that is not according to the building code.

Setback encroachment - if it's an old building, the building department will usually leave it alone if the encroachment is not a health hazard. Owners should write a letter to building dept. and ask if the setback is acceptable if they want to make sure that there is no violation. The building department will respond if it's a tolerable encroachment. If a new building wall encroaches into the setback, if it was an inadvertent error and within 1" to 2", it is within the tolerable range. If the encroachment is greater, the owner must get a zoning variance or tear down the portion of the building that is in violation. Building height will usually have a 6" tolerance to the ridge of the building. The Korean Buddhist Temple in Palolo was issued permits before the Comprehensive Zoning Code (CZC) which was replaced by the Land Use Ordinance (LUO). The CZC allowed higher height limits than the LUO. The height violation was still way above acceptable height and the city forced the temple to lower the height of the building after years of battles in court.

Owners must be sure to comply with the building code when building or making additions to a building. The citation is given by the building department when a building inspector notices new construction and discovers that there are no building permits for the work being done. Sometimes the neighbor may report the illegal construction activity to the city and the buiding inspector will cite the owner for the violation.

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sand — Saturday, November 2, 2013

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plyboy — Sunday, January 5, 2014
My house is at the lowest point of the neighborhood. The unimproved (no sidewalks) street has been resurfaced so many times that if there was ever any swale along the edges, it has long been filled in with the repavings. When it rains, from the runoff of the hill there is a river that flows through my property and down my driveway from the street and surrounding my house with a moat. If I had a small curb at the edge of the unimproved street, the water would simply continue on down the street, as if in a swale, until it gets to the storm drain, which is another 80 ft. to go. Do I need a permit to build a simple 1.5" high x 5" wide curb at the edge of the street and my driveway to keep the water from coming into my property?


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