First Time Applying for a Building Permit
We understand that navigating the process of obtaining a building permit can be complex and potentially overwhelming, especially if you're doing it for the first time. This webpage is meant to simplify the process and provide you with a step-by-step roadmap to successfully apply for and obtain a building permit in Humboldt County.
The Permit Process
Whether you're applying to permit your new house, structures associated with a cannabis farm, or resolve a substandard housing case, the process remains the same. The tabs below will explain each of the seven key steps required for permit issuance.
The first step is to figure out what needs permits. Humboldt County Code (HCC) §331-11(a)(4) and California Building Code (CBC) §105.2 describe development that does not require a building permit. If your development fits one of these descriptions, chances are you will not need a building permit. Note that the CBC allows fences up to 7ft without a permit while HCC only allows fences up to 6ft. Because the most restrictive requirement applies (CBC §220.127.116.11), all fences over 6ft will require a building permit in Humboldt County.
If you are involved in a code violation it should be made clear to you what needs building permits in a correction document provided to you. The same is true for a cannabis license application. The Planning Division will issue a staff report which details what requires building permits. If you are still uncertain you can talk with a Permit Technician, and they will work with you to understand your development and what will require a building permit.
Once you understand which structures needs permits it is time to gather all construction documents (CBC §107) for each structure. Because the Building Division requires a complete submittal before starting a permit record you will need to submit all construction documents at once. Speak with a Permit Technician to learn what documents and forms will be required for your development. Additionally you can visit the Construction Documents subpage to learn what construction documents will be required for your project and how you can get them.
Before submitting you must complete a Building Application (or Over the Counter Building Application), provide proof of property ownership (a grant deed) and compile a complete submittal package for your proposed project (see Construction Documents). If you are an agent representing the owner you must provide a signed Agent Authorization form OR a signed contract with the property owner.
Once you've gathered a complete set of submittal documents, visit the Apply for a Building Permit page and follow those instructions. You will create an account in Accela (see Accela Support Services) and possibly an account with SolarApp+ and PG&E depending on what your are proposing to permit. Eventually you will need to upload required documents to Accela. When uploading documents, please use PDF files only and name your construction documents with the following Naming Conventions. See Accela Support Services for help uploading documents.
When a complete submittal has been provided, we will start your building application, collect preliminary fees, and may schedule a building inspector to do a preliminary site inspection. Over the Counter Permits will not need this inspection. For example, a service panel swap would not require a presite inspection. Generally speaking, any development which includes new structures, an expansion of a building footprint, or an extensive interior remodel will require a presite inspection. At this inspection the inspector will determine if additional construction documents will be required and if the site plan needs more information. See the Inspections page for more info.
Once you have provided all submittal documents requested from your inspector your building application will move to plan check. Plan Checkers will review your construction documents for conformance with all applicable building codes and may request revisions to these documents. Multiple revisions may be requested.
When the plan checkers approve your submittal, we will contact you to pick up and pay for your building permit! This is when the bulk of your building permit fees will be collected. It is then your responsibility to keep your permit documents on-site (CBC §105.7) and call for inspections (CBC §110.1). See the Inspections subpage to learn more about the inspection process.
Once your inspector has completely signed off your building permit card you can request a certificate of occupancy (CBC §111). At this point you are done with the Building Division!
If you are getting building permits for a code violation you may need to contact the Code Enforcement Division to ensure the code violation has been resolved. Similarly, if you are getting building permits as required for a planning application you should contact the Planning Division to see if further action is required.
Although the permit process will remain mostly the same, certain types of structures will have unique requirements.
Important: To qualify for an AOB permit your parcel CAN NOT have public water or public sewer services readily available.
Important: AOB residences MAY NOT be used as short term rentals.
Agricultural exempt structures are structures intended to be used of agricultural purposes only. They are exempt from the structural requirements of the current building code, but still must meet electrical, mechanical, and plumbing code requirements.
See this Ag-Exempt handout for more information.
Remember, our team is here to assist you throughout this process. We encourage you to reach out with any questions or concerns you may have. Our goal is to ensure that your project meets all safety and regulatory standards, and that the process of obtaining a permit is as smooth and straightforward as possible.