Permitting info for projects in the City of Boston.

Short form permit application
For minor work not involving structural work, life safety systems and egress changes, a short‐form building permit may be allowed. This includes replacing any decking, handrails, siding, roofing, windows, doors etc. Electrical, plumbing and gas permits will also be processed. These permits are typically issued within 24 hours.

Long form Permit applications
For larger projects, including altering the size, shape or location of an existing structure or deck, creating additional living space in attic or basement, additions etc, plans will have to be submitted to Inspectional Services Boston, (ISD) for further review. If your new changes do not violate any local zoning laws, a permit can be obtained within 30 days of submitting a full set of architectural plans, engineering plans, plot plan and signed contract with a licensed contractor.

If your plans do create zoning violations, your permit application will be refused at ISD because of this. You can file an appeal with the city of Boston Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). The pathway to getting a hearing at the ZBA can be tedious, including attending abutters meetings and a neighborhood civic association meeting to let your neighbors weigh in on the merits of your proposed plans. A city of Boston representative will attend all meetings and will report to the ZBA the concerns of the people who attend your meetings with your abutters and local neighborhood. This process can take anywhere from several months to a year depending on how many meeting’s you will need to attend.

If you have strong support from direct abutters and your project is low impact, the process will go faster. If you have strong opposition, the process can be delayed until concerns with abutters are addressed in a satisfactory way.

Customer service at ISD, your architect or a local zoning attorney can tell you if your project will create any violations before you begin the permit application. And often can advise alternative designs to your project that may avoid zoning violations.