- Do I need a permit for my project?
- What kind of work does not require a permit?
- How do I find information about a project when plan review is still in progress?
- How long does it take to get a permit?
- What are the general steps for getting a permit?
- How do I check the status of a permit/plan?
- Does my project need plan review or could I get a Subject-to-Field-Inspection (STFI) permit?
- Can I demolish my existing house?
- Where can I build on my property?
- What is the legal fence height allowed without a permit?
- Can I put my garage at my property line?
- How can I get separate electric and water meters for my existing ADU?
- How can I get separate electric and water meters for a backyard cottage?
- How do I apply for a Land Use permit?
- How do I get a project number?
1 - Q. Do I need a permit for my project?
A. Projects in Seattle that involve new or changed uses of property, construction or renovation, or alteration of other building and design elements usually require a permit from the City's Department of Planning and Development (DPD). For a complete list of what types of activity do not require a building permit, go online to the Seattle Residential Code (SRC). Your project may, however, still be subject to other applicable codes and development standards. To determine if a permit is required for your project visit the Applicant Services Center (ASC) and speak with a permit specialist. You may need the address, legal description, and/or a sketch of the existing conditions of your property in order to get a definitive answer.
2 - Q. What kind of work does not require a permit?
A. In general, projects in Seattle that involve new or changed uses of property, construction or alteration of a building -- even if you can't see the alterations from the outside -- usually require a permit from the City's Department of Planning and Development (DPD).
For a complete list of what types of activity do not require a building permit, go online to the Seattle Residential Code or visit the DPD Applicant Services Center (ASC). Even if a building permit is not required, your project may, however, still be subject to other applicable codes and development standards. Find information about electrical, plumbing, side sewer, construction and land use permits for single-family, multifamily, and commercial/industrial buildings on the Packets page of our Forms website.
Per the Seattle Residential Code the following are examples of work that is exempt from needing a building permit:
- Minor repairs or alterations which, as determined by the building official, cost the owner $4,000 or less in any 6-month period. Such repairs and alterations shall not include the removal, reduction, alteration, or relocation of any loadbearing support. Egress, light, ventilation, and fire-resistance shall not be reduced.
- Miscellaneous work including the following, provided no changes are made to the building envelope: patio and concrete slabs on grade, painting or cleaning a building, repointing a chimney, installing kitchen cabinets, paneling or other surface finishes over existing wall and ceiling systems, insulating existing buildings, abatement of hazardous materials, and in-kind or similar replacement of or repair of deteriorated members of a structure.
- One-story detached accessory buildings used for greenhouse, tool or storage shed, playhouse or similar uses, provided:
1. The projected roof area does not exceed 120 square feet; and
2. The building is not placed on a concrete foundation other than a slab on grade.
- Fences not over 8 feet high which do not have masonry or concrete elements above 6 feet.
- Arbors and other open-framed landscape structures not exceeding 120 square feet in projected area.
- Retaining walls and rockeries which are not over 4 feet in height measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall, provided:
1. There is no surcharge or impoundment of Class I, II or III-A liquids.
2. Construction is not in a critical area or an environmentally sensitive area, nor supports soils in areas of geologic hazard, steep slope or having landslide potential as identified in the environmentally sensitive and critical area regulations contained in Chapters 25.05 and 25.09 of the Seattle Municipal Code.
3. Possible failure would likely cause no damage to adjoining property or structures.
- Platforms, walks and driveways not more than 18 inches above grade and not over any basement or story below.
- Window awnings supported by an exterior wall when projecting not more than 54 inches.
- Prefabricated swimming pools, spas and similar equipment accessory to a building subject to this code in which the pool walls are entirely above the adjacent grade and if the capacity does not exceed 5,000 gallons.
- Replacement of roofing materials and siding. This shall not include structural changes, replacement of sheathing or alterations to doors and windows. Existing roof sheathing may be replaced and roof structure may be repaired without permit provided no changes are made to the building envelope other than adding or replacing insulation, and the work is equivalent or better than the existing structure. See Energy Code Sections 188.8.131.52 and 1132.1 for insulation requirements for existing building.
3 - Q. How do I find information about a project when plan review is still in progress?
A. If a permit process is currently in progress, you should contact the City personnel working on that permit, who may be identified by calling DPD's Public Resource Center (PRC). If you'd like to inquire about general permit processes, you can visit the Applicant Services Center (ASC) and speak with a permit specialist.
4 - Q. How long does it take to get a permit?
A. Process times will vary based on size, complexity and type of a given project. For Master Use Permits, discuss review times with a permit specialist in the Applicant Services Center . DPD permit review turnaround statistics are posted each month.
5 - Q. What are the general steps for getting a permit?
A. A good place to start is on the Packets page of our Forms website or on the Permits website. The Packets page lists many of the permits DPD administers, and provides links to information (and paperwork to fill out) about each one. You can also visit our website and visit our Permits page for general information on types of permits, screening and general submittal requirements.
You can also visit the Applicant Services Center and speak with a permit specialist during normal operating hours. Find directions and more detailed information at our About DPD webpage.
Find information about electrical, plumbing, side sewer, construction and land use permits for single-family, multifamily, and commercial/industrial buildings on the Packets page of our Forms website.
6 - Q. How do I check the status of a permit/plan?
A. You can check the status of your permit/plan by visiting the Permit & Complaint Status page.
7 - Q. Does my project need plan review or could I get a Subject-to-Field Inspection (STFI) permit?
A. All projects require some kind of plan review unless they qualify for a Subject-to-Field Inspection permit. You can check out CAM 316, Subject-to-Field Inspection Permits, on our website for information on what qualifies for a Subject-to-Field Inspection permit.
8 - Q. Can I demolish my existing house?
A. CAM 337, Demolition Permits, sets out the various circumstances under which a residence may be demolished. To find more information about demolition, please visit DPD's Demolition and Deconstruction page.
9 - Q. Where can I build on my property?
A. Depending on what land use zone your property is in, there are different rules about where structures can be located on your property and how much of your property can be built upon. If your project is in a single-family (SF) zone, please see CAM 220, Lot Coverage, Height and Yard Standards for Homes in Single Family Zones; CAM 221, Single Family Side Yard Easements and Accessory Structure Agreements; and CAM 312, Decks, Fences and Arbors for Single Family Homes in Seattle for more information. Find what zone your property is in by using the DPD GIS tool or by checking our zoning map. If your project is not in a SF zone, you may want to come in to the Applicant Services Center to speak with a land use planner to learn more.
10 - Q. What is the legal fence height allowed without a permit?
A. Per the Seattle Residential Code, fences that are less than 8’ high and do not have masonry or concrete elements over 6’ high do not require a permit. Refer to CAM 312, Decks, Fences and Arbors for Single-Family Homes in Seattle, for additional information.
11 - Q. Can I put my garage at my property line?
A. It depends on the scope of your project. If you propose to build an attached garage at a property line abutting a side yard, you would need a side-yard easement with your adjacent neighbor agreeing to preserve a 10’ separation from the façade wall of that structure to your neighbor's home. Your project would not be allowed to extend into a required rear yard any closer than 12’ to either the center line of an abutting alley or rear property line.
A detached garage may be allowed to extend into required yards based on a variety of conditions. An accessory structure agreement would be required, generally, if a detached garage is built in a side yard. Detached garages can usually be built up to a rear property line without an easement agreement. A 1-hour fire-rated wall would be required for all garage walls closer than 3’ to any property line. Refer to CAM 221, Single Family Side Yard Easements and Accessory Structure Agreements, and the Seattle Residential Code for more information or you can visit the Applicant Services Center during normal operating hours to discuss details about your project.
12 - Q. How can I get separate electric and water meters for my existing ADU?
A. Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are not usually eligible for separate meters, because they are not recognized as separate, independent dwelling units. An ADU is essentially an accessory use to a single-family dwelling as determined in the Land Use Code. However, ADUs can have separate electrical service as long as the ADU was established by permit, and one of the units is owner-occupied. If the property sells and/or the ADU is discontinued, it may be necessary to reconsolidate the service. Also, the presence of the separate service does NOT establish the unit as anything other than accessory. It does *not*, for example, mean the house and ADU can be called a "duplex." Refer to CAM 116, Establishing an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), for more information.
13 - Q. How can I get separate electric and water meters for a backyard cottage?
A. A second meter for a backyard cottage may be acceptable with prior approval from Seattle City Light (SCL). For more information about backyard cottages, please see CAM 116B, Establishing a Backyard Cottage (Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit. You can also discuss this with an electrical inspector in your district.
14 - Q. How do I apply for a Land Use permit?
A. See our Permits website, under the heading “Permitting Process Overview Getting Started” for detailed information about how to apply.
15 - Q. How do I get a project number?
A. You will receive a project number upon submittal of either a Preliminary Application or a Pre-Application Site Visit. (Find these forms on our Forms website.) You can apply for a project number in the Applicant Services Center during our normal business hours.
May 29, 2012