When Do I Need a Building Permit?

A building permit is City of Iowa City authorization to allow an owner or authorized agent to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, demolish or change the occupancy of a building or structure. A permit is required to assure any work performed meets the minimum standards as set forth by the City Council. This assurance is provided through inspections that are performed by a City Building Inspector; however, it is the responsibility of the owner or authorized agent to call and schedule the required inspections.

A building permit is required to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, demolish, or change the occupancy of any building or structure unless the work is specifically exempt from a building permit. Even if permits are not required, there are regulations pertaining to these excepted items, so please contact Building Inspection Services at 319-356-5120 before beginning your project.

If mechanical, electrical, plumbing and sewer & water installation work (trade work) is being performed in conjunction with a building permit for a single family, duplex or townhouse, (structures regulated by the International Residential Code IRC) then separate trade permits are not required. However, if trade work is being done at a structure regulated by the IRC that doesn't require a building permit, then separate mechanical, electrical, plumbing permits (trade permits) are required. Also, all projects regulated by the International Building Code (IBC) require separate trade permits.

The ultimate responsibility for obtaining a building permit and assuring all inspections are made throughout the construction process is the owner. The owner may have a contract specifying that the general contractor is obligated to secure the building permit and call for required inspections however, it is the owner's responsibility to make sure the permit is issued.

How Much Does it Cost?

Find building permit costs here.

Building permit fees are based on the value of the work to be done. The applicant will pay a flat fee for the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, sewer & water installation work for a single family, duplex or townhouse, at time the building permit is issued. All projects other than single family, duplex or townhouse, require separate permits for mechanical, electrical, plumbing and sewer & water installation.

There are penalties for failure to obtain a building permit. They can include doubling the permit fee or issuing a citation for municipal infraction.

How Do I Apply?

All permit applications are available online in the Customer Self Service (CSS) portal. Only after review of the application and supporting documents is the permit issued. Find more information on how to apply here.

Contractor Requirements for Permits

Electrical, plumbing, mechanical, fire sprinkler and fire alarm contractors are required to be licensed with the State and must be identified on the application prior to permit issuance.