Building Permit Information



Who needs a building permit

A building permit is required by Section 110.0 of the Massachusetts State Building Code (780 CMR). Anyone seeking to construct, alter, repair, or demolish a structure must first obtain a building permit. The building permit must be obtained before the start of any work and prominently posted at the job site. Sign permits and demolition permits are categories of building permits which are required by the Building Code. Ordinary repairs, as defined in the Building Code, do not require a building permit.

A building permit is issued to construction supervisors licensed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The licensed construction supervisor is responsible for being onsite to supervise critical aspects of the construction. If the licensed construction supervisor designated on the permit application leaves the project before completion, the construction work must cease and the Building Department be notified immediately. A new licensed construction supervisor needs to be designated before construction work can recommence.

Who can request a Building Permit?

Construction supervisors licensed by the State Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) are issued building permits, but work is limited to structures under 35,000 cubic feet in volume.

As an exception, building permits are issued to homeowners doing work on one or two unit dwellings where they reside or intend to reside. When a homeowner receives a building permit, he or she may be liable for contractors working on the project and will not be eligible for protection under the provisions of the Homeowners Improvement Contractor Law. For this reason, it is generally a good idea for building permits to be issued to licensed construction supervisors or licensed home improvement contractors.

What requirements must be met prior to applying for a building permit?

Zoning Compliance… Contact the Building Department staff to ensure that the proposed project is in compliance with the provisions of the Zoning Ordinance. The owner or the owner’s representative may be required to secure special permits from the Zoning Board of Appeals or Planning Board, or variances from the ZBOA.

Protected Structures… Structures which are located in historic districts or neighborhood conservation districts, designated as landmarks, or subject to preservation restrictions are protected by the New Bedford Historical Commissioner. Building permits cannot be issued for these structures until the Commission has issued a Certificate of Appropriateness, Hardship or Non-applicability for the proposed wok. When applying for a building permit, the applicant will be advised by the building inspector if approval from the Historical Commission is necessary.

Other Compliance… Proposed new construction or substantial renovation of multi-unit housing, commercial or industrial buildings or structures may require site plan review and/or review by the following City Departments: Airport Commissioner, Fire Department, Historical Commissioner, Treasurer’s Office, Conservation Commissioner, Harbor Development Commission, Park Department, Water Department, Department of Public Works, Health Department, Planning Department, Wire Department, Plumbing Department, and the Assessor’s Office. Their contact information is located at the end of this brochure.

What are the steps in applying for a building permit?

  1. The Application. Pick up an application for a building permit at the Building Department. The licensed builder must complete and sign the application. The property owner must also review and sign the application.
  2.  Complete the application. Please provide the following information:
    • Building location, setbacks, and related zoning information
    • Detailed information and qualifications of the owner, applicant, contractor, architect, and engineer
    • Information about design loads, testing laboratory, technical inspections, etc.
    • Information about existing and proposed use, construction type, and building features
    • Summarized cost estimate
    • Detailed project description
  3. Prepare two sets of construction plans, specifications, and technical certifications to submit with the building permit application. For projects involving structures greater than 35,000 cubic feet in volume, construction plans must be stamped by a registered architect and / or engineer. However, for complex designs or load bearing components, the building inspector may require specific aspects of the design and specification to be certified by a registered structural engineer.
    NOTE: The building inspector may waive the requirement for submitting plans if the work is of a minor nature.Technical Certifications… The building permit application must be supported with the following documents:

    For structures over 35,000 cubic feet in volume, affidavits from architects and engineers certifying that the project has been designed & will be inspected in accordance with the building code.

    Certification that the contractor is registered under the Homeowner Improvement Contractor Law which is applicable for improvements of residential structures of four (4) units or less that are owner occupied.

    Evidence that contractor’s workers are covered by Workman’s Compensation Insurance. NOTE: This certification is not required if permit is taken out by the homeowner.

  4. Submit the completed application packet to the Building Department.
    The licensed builder or homeowner (for one or two family owner occupied dwellings) delivers the application to the Building Department. A building inspector will conduct a quick review of the application to ensure it is complete. If the application is incomplete, the licensed builder or homeowner may have to provide additional information before the application can be accepted.
  5. Plan Review… The application and supporting documentation are then ready for plan review. After all sign offs are obtained, the building inspector notifies the builder and issues the permit card. The supporting documentation and plans are then filed with the Building Department.Approval or Disapproval… The building code requires that action be taken on the permit application within 30 days of the filing date. If approved, a building permit will be issued. For minor projects, the building permit is often times issued when the application is accepted. This completes the Building Permit process.
  6. Construction start up… The Building Department inspects the project during construction.Permit Discontinuance… If the work authorized by the permit has not commenced within six (6) months, the permit may be deemed abandoned.

    Site inspections…. The building inspector frequently inspects the work during its progress. The results of the inspections are recorded. It is the owner’s or his/her representative’s responsibility to notify the Building Inspector so that all required inspection can be conducted in a timely manner. If specialized inspection is required from the architect and/or testing lab on the project, copies of the reports must be provided to the Building Inspector for review and file.

  7. Upon construction completion, the following information must be submitted and actions taken before the Certificate of Occupancy (CO) can be issued:Affidavits from the architect and/or engineer and the contractor certifying that the project was built in accordance with the approved plans and all applicable codes.

    A final inspection conducted by the following inspectors: Fire, Water, Wiring, Plumbing, Department of Public Works, Conservation Commission, Health Department and Building Department. The fee for the Certificate is collected and then all signatures are obtained . The Building Commissioner signs the CO and the original is provided to the applicant . A copy is retained on file at the Building Department. This completes the CO process.

What if the planned work changes after a building permit has been issued?

Changes to the planned work authorized by the building permit must be authorized by a modification to the original permit and as-built plans must be submitted before any work on changes is started.

Whom does the applicant contact with specific questions for a department involved in the building permit process?

Airport Commissioner (508) 991-6160
Assessor’s Office (508) 979-1440
Conservation (508) 991-6188
Dept. Of Public Works (508) 979-1520
Fire Department (508) 991-6124
Harbor Development (508) 991-3000
Health Department (508) 991-6290
Historical Commission (508) 997-1776
Inspector of Buildings (508) 979-1540
Park Department  (508) 991-6175
Planning Department  (508) 979-1488
Plumbing Department (508) 979-1518
Treasurer’s Office  (508) 979-1430
Water Department  (508) 979-1556
Wire Department  (508) 979-1470

What if the applicant wants more detailed information about the Massachusetts State Building Code or the Building Permit process?

For more information, call the New Bedford Building Department.

The City of New Bedford does not discriminate on the basis of disability.

The information contained in this document may not be complete or fully up to date and is subject to change. To confirm information regarding this permitting process, contact the appropriate City of New Bedford Department. This document may be used strictly for informational purposes.