The Contractor’s Guide to Charging for Permit Pulls

Scott Dylan Westerlund
Updated August 30, 2021
A female contractor looking at site plans
Jessie Casson/DigitalVision via Getty Images

Before you start work on a job, you’ll need to do all the required permit pulls to protect yourself and the property owner from potential liability

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It’s no fun trudging down to the permit office, filling out forms, and paying fees, but doing permit pulls is just part of every contractor’s job. Here, we’ll cover everything you need to know, including average permit costs, why permit pulls are important, when they’re required, and whether you should leave it to the homeowner or hire a permit pulling service.

How Much Should Contractors Charge for Pulling Permits?

General contractors must cover both permit cost and time compensation when charging for permits. The average permit cost is between $400 and $2,500. Cost varies by town or city. In some places, permits have flat fees based on project types. You could also pay based on the value of the project. Construction "values" can be based on labor and materials.

There's no solid rule for how contractors charge for permit pulls. Some simply charge their clients what the building department charges to have the permit pulled. Others apply their hourly rate to the amount of time spent on obtaining the permit.

Some contractors bundle average permit pulls into an "extra fees" category that's a catch-all for extra costs. If you pay a permit service, you can itemize that fee on the bill.

It helps to know all of the steps for permit pulls before you make a pricing plan:

  • Research all permits needed through the building department

  • Complete permit applications

  • Create a site plan

  • If necessary, get plan approval from the building department

  • Get the permit

  • Schedule any required inspections with the city

  • Complete your project

  • If required, get a final inspection

Why a Permit Is Needed for Renovation and Construction Jobs

Permits are legally required for most renovation and construction projects. This includes building, plumbing, and electrical. A homeowner could be in a world of trouble if unpermitted work is done. 

Here’s why you should always do a permit pull before a job:

  • Helps prevent property damage

  • Lessens risk of injury

  • Lenders won’t approve a home sale if they find unpermitted work

  • Buyers can cancel a home purchase if they find unpermitted work

  • Protects you and the property owner from fines

  • Protects you and the property owner from lawsuits

  • Keeps the municipality from ordering a teardown

If you're a contractor, you can be reported to your state's contractor licensing board if you're caught doing unpermitted work. A customer may turn you in if they discover you didn't pull the required permits. 

Here's a look at the consequences of doing work without a permit:

  • Loss of your contractor license

  • Fines

  • Civil lawsuits

  • Negative reviews

Unpermitted work is a problem that doesn't go away. If the property is ever sold, inspectors will spot unpermitted work and require that you come back and fix it.

When Should You Pull a Permit?

This comes down to local building codes and local regulations. Permits are almost always needed for:

  • Changes to home/building structure

  • Changes to home/building plumber

  • Changes to home/building electrical wiring

Cosmetic changes don't usually require permits. You probably don't need a permit if you're updating a faucet, installing new granite countertops, or replacing French doors. However, you would likely need permits for adding a second sink to a kitchen or adding a new door to an existing wall.

It's important to inquire about permits as far out from your start date as possible because a variance may be needed. This can delay your start time.

Begin by asking the local building department to supply you with a printout or file containing all of the ordinances, permits, and local regulations that apply for your project.

Average Costs of Building Permits

A female electrician checking her phone
sturti/E+ via Getty Images

The average cost around the country for building permits is $1,330. It usually looks like $400 to $2,250 for most projects. Cities tend to charge more than small towns for permits.

Here's a look at the most common permits being pulled:

  • Electrical

  • Plumbing

  • Mechanical

  • Structural changes

  • Additions

  • Room conversions

  • Sheds

  • Windows

  • Demolitions

  • Pergolas

  • Decks

  • HVAC

  • Bathrooms   

One project could overlap with many permits. A new bathroom may require permit pulls for demolition, plumbing, and structural changes. All work should be done as though the building inspector has a seat in the room with you.

When Should Contractors Do Permit Pulls vs. Homeowners?

While rules vary by state, the default is that homeowners are technically responsible for permit pulls. It's still customary for contractors to pull them because customers are paying for your project management and expertise.

Any person "acting as agent of a property owner" can apply for a permit in most states. Homeowners can feel free to pull their own permits as a way to manage costs. However, most prefer to leave this up to the pros.

There's no downside other than the possibility of the homeowner pulling the wrong permit. While that could be frustrating if it delays your project, you won't be to blame. Of course, do-it-yourself homeowners need to pull their own permits. Make sure to include permits in your project estimates to showcase the value you bring by allowing potential clients to avoid this time-consuming step!

Should You Use a Permit Service?

You might want to streamline the permit process if you do a high volume of permit pulls by hiring a permit service. 

Permit services help by:

  • Completing paperwork

  • Tracking fees

  • Tracking/managing inspections

  • Ensuring necessary permits are pulled

  • Freeing up your time to focus on project details

The benefit of having permits professionally managed on your behalf is that you can prevent bad inspections, stop-work orders, and legal actions. They also free up your time from "administrative" work.

Most permit companies charge between $35 and $70 per hour. You may also have to compensate the company for things like travel and document copies. A permit service may be worth it if time spent on permits is costing you money.

Pull the Necessary Permits to Make Every Project a Success

A contractor's reputation is involved every time a permit is pulled. Make sure you're pulling permits with integrity to give each client a lifetime of peace of mind.

As you're building up your reputation, make sure you're getting seen by leads looking for your services right in your local area. With Angi Ads, qualified leads are sent straight to you.

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