PERMITS, Part 5: Moving In

Updated: Dec 4, 2021


Before a building can be occupied, the project must pass the inspectors' final review and receive an Occupancy Permit from the AHJ.


This is the last article in my PERMITS series. This part of the permiting and construction process is what everyone's eagerly looking forward to, but if you've missed the other articles, you can find them in the post PERMITS, Part 1: The Players.


During Construction


During the course of construction, at least one building inspector will be conducting inspections. He is reviewing the constructed work to see if what is built matches the approved building permit documents. He is also doing a check on the general level of quality of construction. Usually, if you hired an architect for the project, the City will require their own inspections of only certain things such as plumbing and wiring.


Occupancy Permit


In the simplest situation, when a construction project is complete, the inspector assigned to the project performs a final review (inspection), files his report, and the Building Department issues an Occupancy Permit. Rarely though do things go so smoothly.


"The building permit review does not guarantee that the project's application complies with all codes and regulations. Compliance with all building codes is always ultimately the owner's responsibility, and the building inspector has the authority to require that the project be brought into compliance."

On most projects, the inspector identifies in his report at least a few deficiencies that must be corrected before he signs off. Most of these deficiencies are minor or easily-remedied ones that can be readily identified as discrepancies with what is shown in the building permit drawings. The deficiencies may simply be incomplete work. Often, deficiencies make reference to certain Building Code requirements. From time to time though, the inspector insists on a change made that isn't reflected on the approved Building Permit drawings, and this is where the Owner usually gets at least a little upset. The drawings generally have a nice big 'APPROVED' stamp right on the front, so the extra request at the end of the game is basically moving the goal posts. When you are fully expecting to be able to move into (or back into) a building, the last thing you want to hear is that you have to wait longer and spend more money on construction changes.


As noted in my previous article PERMITS, Part 3: Building Permit, the Building Permit review does not guarantee that the project's Building Permit application complies with all codes and regulations; the review is an objective check by a third party whose main priority is the health and safety of the occupants and of the public. The Owner is always ultimately responsible to ensure that the project complies with the Building Code -- not the builder, not the architect, not the engineers. The building inspector always has the authority to require that the project be brought into compliance with all building codes regardless of what is shown in the approved Building Permit documents.


As though that might not be worrisome enough, additional inspectors may be required to review the project and sign off. For example, a building safety official from the fire department will usually review a larger or commercial building to ensure that the fire safety systems in the building (e.g. smoke detectors, automatic sprinklers, emergency lighting, exit signs) as installed are adequate. On larger projects, the building inspector relies on the Planning Department to check to see if what is built matches what is shown in the approved development permit documents. The Planning Department review may involve as many as several staff members.


"Though the building itself may be finished, the owner is responsible for ensuring that all the required documents are correct, complete, provided to the inspector, and filed with the municipality."

In addition to the construction being complete, various documents must be submitted before an Occupancy Permit can be issued. These documents include letters from one or more engineers, certificates from testing agencies, or reports from other inspectors. Though the building itself may be finished, the owner is responsible for ensuring that all the required documents are correct, complete, provided to the inspector, and filed with the municipality.


Once everybody's happy, all the i's are dotted, t's crossed, and the AHJ has everything filed, it issues an Occupancy Permit. Only at this point can the building be occupied.


Epilogue: Liens


From time to time, the builders on a project aren't paid in full, for one reason or another. Since they can't take back the work they've performed, provincial legislation tries to give them a bit of power to seek payment. In these rare cases, the builders may place what is called a lien on a project. The lien works similarly to a traffic ticket. If you don't pay your traffic ticket, nobody's going to take your car. However, you won't be able to renew your insurance or your driver's license. If a lien has been placed on a building you own, you won't be able to

Disclaimer:

The information above is correct to the best of my understanding, hopefully eliminates some mystery, reduces confusion, and piques your interest. However, the information is provided as mainly entertainment and should not be relied upon as legal reference. Please consult with the authorities, registered professionals, and legislation in your area, as I will not be liable for any differences you may encounter.