Courtesy of Jerry Bunkers

Most businesses require business owners to obtain a permit prior to operating. Finding the right types of permits needed can be difficult. Some businesses require certain permits, while others may need another type of permit. A businesses location may have some bearing on the type of permits necessary. Acquiring the right permits can be confusing for most business owners; there are numerous permits available, and business owners may have recieved conflicting information about the permits from multiple sources. Obtaining the wrong permit can be as costly for a business as neglecting to obtain the right one.

Zoning & Building Codes

In most areas, development is regulated under two types of codes:

  • Zoning Codes
  • Building Codes

A zoning code may not always be necessary; however, discovering whether a zoning permit is needed, should always be the first step required when opening a new business or changing a business location. Once a business owner determines whether a zoning permit is needed, the next step is applying for, and obtaining a building permit.

Zoning and building permits may be handled simultaneously in some areas. Zoning clearance is sometimes obtained during the application process for a building permit. In most cases, a zoning permit and a building permit are two separate processes.

Zoning codes are responsible for determining if a project fits into a community. Zoning regulates types of uses, heights, parking, and design. Most cities are divided into zooming districts with a set of regulations governing each area.

For instance, regulations in single-family residential districts are different than the requirements for multi-family or commercial districts. Applications for zoning permits are generally accompanied by site and building plans.

Building codes are oriented toward ensuring building structures are built according to appropriate standards. Building codes ensure buildings are safe for the types of uses they are intended for. Applications for building permits are usually accompanied by detailed construction plans.

Operating Permits

Businesses have differing permit requirements. The required permits may depend on a businesses location or industry. Some business owners seeking permits may be denied operating permits due to a proposed location or chosen industry.

Find the Right Permit

There are online services that businesses are free to use that may assist business owners in locating the types of permits that are needed in any given location. SBA.gov is a resource that offers free location based permitting requirements. Additionally, state and federal offices will often assist business owners calling with permitting questions.

Home-Based Businesses Require Permits

Home-based business owners often assume that a permit is not required to do business from their home. Costly permit violations are frequently issued to home-based business owners who have made this mistaken assumption.

Zoning, building, and operational permits can be required of home-based businesses. In some cases, zoning will prevent certain business activities from being conducted in certain areas. Home based business owners should contact local authorities before conducting business in residential area.

Permit Maintenance and Management

A business owners work doesn’t cease when all the proper permits are acquired. Permits must be maintained and managed properly. Doing so requires business owners to:

  • Keep a schedule posted of renewal dates for operational permits.
  • Maintain copies of forms and applications in business records
  • Display permits correctly, as instructed by local authorities.

Before engaging in any expansion or building projects, it may be necessary to obtain additional building permits. Expansion projects could negate any grandfathered permits. Never initiate a new project without making sure additional permits aren’t required. Businesses can be ordered to shut down for ignoring local ordinances and restrictions.

Navigating the process of obtaining zoning, building, and operational permits can seem daunting to any business owner, but the process doesn’t have to be complicated. Business owners should break the task into separate steps and act accordingly. Additionally, most local authorities are helpful and will offer advice and information to new business owners about building, zoning, and operational requirements.