What Is a Permit Expediter and Do I Need One?

The permit process can be pretty straightforward if you’re doing a simple remodel.  But try to do anything out of the ordinary (like everything I do), and it can be a frustrating, time-consuming, and expensive proposition.  The city Planning Department is a fun-house hall of mirrors and the people who work there like it that way.

 

The Planning Department is a vast conspiracy whose primary mission is to make the process as confusing as possible in order to guarantee every retiring staff member a lucrative second career as permit consultants where they make more money than they ever could have working behind a counter.

 

These consultants are often called “expediters”, but that term is misleading and often misused.  The only people who can really expedite a permit process are one of the downtown law firms who hire former planning department staff members and even retired city council members and charge fees starting at $50,000 and up.  These expediters are hired by large developers or superrich celebrities trying to get around the rules with as little fuss as possible.

 

For the rest of us mere mortals, there are a variety of consultants who can help us navigate the system with as few mistakes and delays as possible.  Only by avoiding delays are they “expediting” anything.  They cannot circumvent the process or make anything move faster.  The most they can do is ensure that an eight-month process actually takes eight months – not ten.  But these consultants aren’t cheap either and usually won’t touch a project unless they can charge at least $10-20,000 in fees.

 

What many people call “expediters” are what I call “runners” or “bag-carriers”.  For $40-50 per hour, they will carry your plans through Plan Check and other planning counters.  Some of them will help you research and prepare your case – others won’t.  Some others only do the research, not the trafficking.  You’ll see these runners around the planning office, often pulling file crates on wheels loaded-up with plans and paperwork for multiple clients.  I’ve seen two types: 1) older men and women who recently retired from the Planning Departments and are still on close terms with everyone behind the counter, and 2) young, leggy women who wear the highest heels, the shortest skirts and the lowest-cut blouses you’ve ever seen and know how to flirt.  In both cases, you’ll see them wave and blow kisses to everyone as they enter the floor.  They’ll stop and chat with everyone they see and spend more time talking with staff members about family, vacations and office gossip than they do conducting business.  All this while you sit seething, waiting for your number to be called, feeling like the outcast at a party where everyone else knows each other.

 

So back to you – do you need a runner, a permit consultant or an actual expediter?  It depends on how complicated your permit issues are and what your budget can afford.  You don’t need any of these if your project is fairly simple and your architect or contractor doesn’t hit any snags.  But if you do encounter a problem, it’s going to be up to you which strategy to pursue since you’re the one paying the bills.  In separate postings I’ll talk about how to find the help you need, and how to handle the process yourself.  Or contact me directly through this site and I’ll see if I can steer you in the right direction.

 

Read more about clearing a difficult permit here.

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11 Comments

  1. Nicole

     /  April 8, 2009

    There are several types od “expediters”, every project has a specific need. I work with builders, homeowners and investors. I work along with attorneys, engineers and or architects to determine what exactly needs to be done in order for the building process to start asap. As you are well aware every municipality has different systems & rules.

    In response to your description of an “expediter” I am not a retired city official, nor a woman who dresses inappropriately that flirts (which that was the nost ridiculous comment I have heard).
    I am a professional woman that makes the permitting process easier for buiders and or homeowners that are to busy with other agendas to sit and fill out forms, attend meetings, run plans around or even attend inspections to close out the permits.

    I appreciate being able to respond, maybe give a different view point.
    Thank you.

  2. Debbie

     /  May 30, 2009

    I have been in construction for 20 years and 3 years ago I opened a permit service. It sounds like you are clueless about what goes on in the world of permitting. Ask yourself is it really simple to
    spend hours on the phone with the building dept trying to get updates on the permit, half the time they don’t answer the phone it goes to voice mail.
    If you don’t have all the required documents when you submit the application you have to go back again.. You need to research your property control number and find out the cost of the permit. I can go on and on but I don’t have all the free time you do.
    I charge $150.00 per permit. Is that allot of money? I care about the contractors and home owners I work for.

  3. Not heard of this but informative!

  4. Expediters are worth it if your time is valuable. If you’ve got idle time, it can be a learning process to see how the gears of bureaucracy turn, but if you’re too busy with the rest of life then just hire it out.

    The poster above who charges $150 – that is a bargain, do you work in my jurisdiction??

  5. I can understand your frustration. The expediting industry needs to improve as a whole and offer real value for our customers. My company Permit Place http://www.permitplace.com has been expediting permits nationwide for since 2004. We have former planners on staff and regularly work with entitlement, land use and construction permit issues. We’ve helped developers, banks, retailers and restaurants get their permits fast by offering a friendly customer service at a reasonable price. It is possible to expedite the permit if you know what your doing. For example, we got a Neiman Marcus permit in Scottsdale, AZ in one (1) day vs. the thirty (30) days that is normal. Go to our website and download the white paper showing what we can do for you and your team.

  6. peter

     /  August 13, 2010

    I had a small sunroom attached to my house (where my patio was) back in 2004 by Four Seasons. I/they did not apply for a permit at that time due to time restraints. I have my last survey (without sunroom) and all pictures of footing and construction being done. Also have licensed electrical certificate, & all CoC’s & CoO prior too. I am told that I need to get an architect, to first draw up a drawing so as to get a survey, than he will file for the permit. I was also told, just get an expeditor to do a simple drawing and an updated survey. My home is in L.I. N.Y (Town of Hempstead) Any opinions on the best & cheapest way?

  7. peter

     /  August 17, 2010

    6. peter – August 13, 2010
    I had a small sunroom attached to my house (where my patio was) back in 2004 by Four Seasons. I/they did not apply for a permit at that time due to time restraints. I have my last survey (without sunroom) and all pictures of footing and construction being done. Also have licensed electrical certificate, & all CoC’s & CoO prior too. I am told that I need to get an architect, to first draw up a drawing so as to get a survey, than he will file for the permit. I was also told, just get an expeditor to do a simple drawing and an updated survey. My home is in L.I. N.Y (Town of Hempstead) Any opinions on the best & cheapest way?

  8. adriropi

     /  June 4, 2011

    I want start mt own bussines as a permit runner but don’t have good idea how much to charge per project. They ask to price for an addition on a residence 1,000 SQ FT and has septic tank so the process includes to go to health dept first for approval. I was thinking on charge $600 for that one. Is that too high?
    The other project is a commercial bldg. 4,000 SQ FT and total constrtuction with walls and all is 6,000SF if I charge $1,250 is that too much?
    How a permit runner get the cost? it depends on the Square footage only?

  9. Anyone that hires an attorney or a law firm to Expedite Permits is a fool. It can be done easily and correctly by anyone that knows how the system works. To hire and attorney to expedite a building permit, or rectify an order to comply is like hiring a doctor to do automotive repairs. Yes, it is a “Quasi-Judicial” process but anyone who has experience can handle your case effectively for fractions of what an attorney would charge you. I have done it hundreds of times.

    Contact me at: Order to Comply Los Angeles, ordertocomplylosangeles.com or at
    (909) 872- 2495, ask for John. Site visit and basic analysis of your specific needs for any permit or Order to Comply is $75.00. Any additional cost depends on the nature of your case as no two are the same.

    Call John, 909.782.2495

    I can help you.

  10. Although it is beneficial to learn the local municipal process for permit authorization, there are several pitfalls that many permit expediting companies may suffer from. Given the various intricacies of each jurisdiction, there are often unknown resources that an Architect, Developer, Retailer, or RE Agent may benefit from, that only an experienced permit expediter will know about. Our Company, http://www.LampertGroup.Build has helped in obtaining permits for a variety of industry professionals. We have often helped companies with Permit Procurement by utilizing resources they were previously un-aware of, and we have proven our value by exercising knowledge of Building-Code, and Municipal review processes. We operate in many cities nationwide, and have helped design & construction teams get their projects pushed through as quickly as possible with expertise & quality legwork that many major firms simply don’t have time for. It is these particular qualities that set us apart from the competition. Thanks for the Article, as it points out some of the issues currently affecting the industry, which we have avoided.

  1. South Carolina Permit Services | Permit Expeditor

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