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Helpful Hints & Did You Know?

Not sure if you need a permit?

Call the Building Department at 375-7411. Staff can usually advise you over the phone if the project you are considering does or does not require a permit. The best time to call the Building Department is in the afternoon, as staff is usually assisting permit applicants at the counter in the morning. If you do reach voicemail, please leave a detailed message, and staff will respond as quickly as possible.

New Ordinance to Address Construction-Related Impacts

On February 14, 2005 the City Council adopted a new ordinance which became effective on April 16, 2005 to address some of the impacts associated with construction projects, especially those which are long and/or poorly managed. .This new ordinance has three main parts, including Construction Permit Deposits, Time Limitations (with monetary penalties) for construction projects and a requirement for Construction Management, including pre-construction meetings and qualified job superintendents.


Construction Completion Deposit HMC 15.30.070: Before a building permit may be issued, the property owner or his representative shall deliver to the building department a refundable deposit (in cash or in the form of a payment penalty bond) in the amount of two percent of the estimated value of the work as determined by the chief building official, but not less than a five hundred dollar ($500) deposit. Any bond shall be in the amount of the deposit and in form and contents satisfactory to the town and shall cover a minimum time period of the applicable time limit plus two years. If construction is completed (as defined in Sec 15.30.040) by the applicable time limit, the town shall refund the construction completion deposit or return the bond, together with any interest earned thereon. If a property owner fails to complete construction by the applicable time limit, the applicable penalties shall accrue daily.

Time Limits for Completion of Projects HMC Sect 15.30: The most significant part of this ordinance is the enactment of time limits for construction projects, based on job value, with monetary penalties for noncompliance. The ordinance includes requirements for the completion of construction projects, including new construction and modifications. The table included in the ordinance allows from 9 months to up to 36 months for completion of projects ranging in value from less than $50,000 to over $6,000,000. A second table (Section 15.30.060) identifies penalties for not completing the projects within the time allowed. Penalties start at $200 per day and go up to $1,000 per day.

Property owners will be required to submit a deposit before a permit is issued. If the time limits expire, the penalties would be charged against the deposit. When the job is completed, the unused deposit will be refunded. Should the penalties exceed the deposit, the ordinance contains provisions for collection and liens.

A hearing panel will consider appeals of the penalties and will have the authority to modify or cancel them if there are appropriate grounds, based on provisions of the ordinance.


Construction Management HMC Sect 15.26: This ordinance also contains new requirements for projects with an estimated value of $750,000 or more. Pre-construction meetings and on-site qualified job superintendents will be required. Pre-construction meetings, which include Building and Engineering Departments staff, provide a format to discuss with the contractor and property owner key management issues, such as construction parking, erosion control, and recycling, work hours, keeping a clean and neat site, and responding to neighbor’s issues. This meeting puts all those involved “on notice” as to what is going to be expected during the construction process.

There is also a requirement for an on-site qualified job superintendent. This person would act as the first contact for concerned neighbors and Town staff. As projects become more complex, and as many homeowners attempt to manage their own projects, there has been a need to have a qualified point person who is responsible and knowledgeable about the job that can answer questions, meet with staff on pre-construction meetings, and be available to neighbors who may have concerns about the project. This ordinance requires that a qualified superintendent, which is someone with substantial construction experience and substantial knowledge of the rules and methods of construction, is present to manage the job and be accountable to the Town.


It is hoped that this new ordinance will reduce the impacts to residents from construction projects which occur in their neighborhood.

What are the benefits of having a building permit?

Increased Value: Your home is an investment. If your construction project does not comply with the codes adopted by the Town, the value of your investment could be reduced. Property insurers may not cover work done without permits and inspections. If you decide to sell a home or building that has had modifications done without a permit, you may be required to remove the addition, leave it unoccupied or do costly repairs.

Protects: A property owner who can show that code requirements were strictly and consistently met, as demonstrated by a code official's records, has a strong ally if something happens to trigger a potentially destructive lawsuit.

Ensures Safety: Your permit also allows the code official to protect the public by reducing the potential hazards of unsafe construction and ensuring public health, safety and welfare. By following code guidelines, your completed project will meet minimum standards of safety and will be less likely to cause injury to you, your family, your friends or future owners.

How can I obtain a building permit?

Talk to Your Local Code Official
Your code official wants your project to be a success and will help you avoid potential problems that could cost you time and money. You will be asked some basic questions (What are you planning to do? Where?), advised of any requirements and, if necessary, referred to other departments for their approval. The code official will provide you with the resources and information needed for compliance with the applicable building codes. You will then receive an application for a building permit.

Submit Application
At this stage you will document the "Who, What, When, Where and How" of the job, along with any sketches or plans of the proposed work. Normally, separate permits are required for electrical, plumbing, and heating or air-conditioning work. In a brief amount of time, the code official will review your plans and determine if your project is in compliance with local requirements. If your plans meet these requirements, a permit is issued. If not, the code official may suggest solutions to help correct the problem.

Receive Permit
Now that you have been approved for a permit, you have legal permission to start construction. A fee, based on the size and value of the job, is collected to cover the cost of the application, the review and the inspection process. An experienced code official is available to you should you have any questions concerning your project. You should consider your code official as an ally who will help you make your project a success.

Job-site Visits
On-site inspections will be required to make certain the work conforms to the permit, local codes and plans. Again, you will have access to the expertise of the code official to help you with questions or concerns regarding the project and to ward off potentially costly mistakes. The code official will let you know approximately how many inspections may be needed for your project. Usually, a one- or two-day notice is needed when requesting visits.

Receive Final Approval
The code official will provide documentation when construction is complete and code compliance is determined. You will then have the personal satisfaction of a job done right. Enjoy your new surroundings with the peace of mind and the knowledge that they meet the safety standards of the Town.

The Town of Hillsborough 1600 Floribunda Avenue, Hillsborough, CA 94010 (650) 375-7400
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