A building permit is a key ingredient for any new construction project. Here are some common questions you may be asking yourself today:

What is it?

A “building permit” (or “construction permit”) is a permit that is required in most jurisdictions, including Louisiana, for new construction, additions to pre-existing structures and even for some major renovations. Simply put, a building permit is the formal permission you need in order to begin construction or demolition on your or someone else’s property. Nearly every Parish or municipality in Louisiana requires a building permit in order for construction work to begin. Navigating these different rules for the jurisdictions can be problematic.

When do I need it?

Here are some common situations of when you may need to receive a building permit:

  • When building a new residence
  • When working on home additions and renovations
  • When building any accessory structure over 120 square feet
  • When building a covered patio
  • When putting in roofing & decking that exceeds 100 square feet
  • When building any fencing that is four feet or higher
  • Nearly every commercial structure

What if I don’t get one?

If you do not obtain a permit, the Building Codes Director (the “Director”) may send you a “notice of violation,” which shall direct discontinuance of the illegal action or condition and instruct abatement of the violation. This can be referred to as a “stop work order.”

If the notice is not complied with promptly, the Director may get the City Attorney to institute legal proceedings to restrain, correct or abate the violation. The stop work order will not only punish the owner or developer of the project, if workers continue the job, then they may be subject to both civil and criminal penalty.

What are the penalties?

Violations subject the violator to penalties. For purposes of determining penalties, Section 17.3 of the New Orleans ordinance provides that each day that a violation continues will be considered a separate violation. Some common examples of penalties are fines, stop work orders, and misdemeanor charges. Demolition is an extraordinary remedy that may on occasion be used in relation to unauthorized work.

Can I Appeal?

A building owner may appeal whenever s/he disagrees with any decisions or rulings of the Director. Keep in mind that you will first appeal to an administrative board, and not a court. Administrative boards are usually (i) less formal; (ii) consider less reliable evidence; (iii) are not legally trained; and (iv) do not follow an adversarial system. Further, the appeal periods are often much smaller for administration appeals. The key here is to contact a knowledgeable attorney as soon as the violation is rendered.

What else should I know?

Be careful to always mind your deadlines. Missing an important date can cost you time and money. Also, though representation is not mandatory, we strongly recommend it as this may help you avoid burdensome penalties. Contact the attorneys at Smiley Law for all your building permit and inspection violation needs.

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Seth Smiley
Seth is an attorney licensed to practice in Louisiana and California. He is the owner and lead attorney at Smiley Law Firm. To speak with Seth fill out the form on this page.
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