Reopening Frequently Asked Questions

July 5, 2021

On Tuesday July 6, City Hall and other city facilities reopened for limited in-person services as part of the next step in the City’s equitable and responsible reopening plan. DOB and other departments will continue to offer the electronic and phone-based services that were implemented during the past year and we encourage all users to continue with these services whenever possible as in-person capacity will remain limited.

As we gradually reopen to the public, in-person services will be prioritized for homeowners and business tenants who have limited ability to access internet-based services remotely. In most cases, only drop-off service will be available for third-party providers, including expediters, attorneys, contractors, and design professionals who together are expected to follow electronic submission procedures and schedule appointments for meetings with City staff. Unscheduled walk-in appointments with staff by third-party providers are prohibited. All permit applications and filings (both those submitted electronically and in-person) will be queued together and processed in the order received. Cashiering services will remain available on the first floor of City Hall, at the City’s Central Hearing Facility (400 W. Superior) and at other Department of Finance Payment Centers

While a majority of Chicagoans are fully vaccinated, there are residents that either have not been vaccinated or, in rare cases, cannot get vaccinated for health reasons. As a result, the City is maintaining mandatory mask and social distancing requirements for all employees and visitors in city facilities, regardless of vaccination status. Masks must be worn when entering and remaining in city buildings, including in lobbies, elevators, hallways, customer service areas, and restrooms. 

Finally, the City encourages everyone who has not been vaccinated and is able to do so to get vaccinated. This is the best way to protect yourself, your family, friends and colleagues against COVID-19. For more information on vaccines, please visit www.chi.gov/covidvax

For more information about DOB’s current services, please review this page.

 

Are Department of Buildings offices open?

Yes, most Department of Buildings employees have returned to normal work assignments. As of July 6, 2021, Department of Buildings facilities are open for limited public services during normal business hours.

All members of the public are required to wear a mask and maintain six feet of social distancing within all City facilities. Please be advised that we expect long wait times for in-person consultations and in-person visits are discouraged. Unscheduled walk-in appointments with staff by third-party providers (architects, attorneys, engineers, expediters, etc.) are prohibited.

The Department of Buildings encourages continued use of online/remote processes. In-person assistance will be prioritized for homeowners and business tenants who have limited access to web-based services at home.

What Department of Buildings services are available on a walk-in basis?

At City Hall (121 North LaSalle Street): A Department of Buildings staff member is available at the 9th floor front desk Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to answer general questions about Department of Buildings programs and permitting processes and accept drop-off of permit-application-related documents. A limited number of public internet terminals are available in the elevator lobby to access City of Chicago web-based services. In-person assistance will be prioritized for homeowners and business tenants who have limited access to web-based services at home. No permit applications will be processed on a walk-in basis, and permitting staff are not available to discuss specific permit applications. All meetings with Department of Buildings staff at this location are by appointment only.

At 2045 West Washington Boulevard: No services are available on a walk-in basis. All meetings with DOB staff at this location, including document pickup, are by appointment only. Due to facility limitations at this location and continuing COVID-19 safety protocols, members of the public will not be admitted beyond the lobby.

Where can payments be made?

Most building permit application-related fees can be paid online. Invoiced inspection fees may be paid by mail. Other payments must be submitted to the Department of Finance as follows:

In-person payments for building permits and building permit applications (based on a 9-digit permit application number) may be made in City Hall Room 107 or at the City’s Central Hearing Facility, 400 West Superior Street. Only these locations can print building permit certificates.

In-person payment of fees and other charges based on an invoice or cashier payment form may be made at any Department of Finance Payment Center

No payments are being accepted on the 9th floor of City Hall at this time.

How do I contact the Department?

We continue to process permit applications, conduct inspections, and make ourselves available to answer questions and assist you in any way possible. The following protocol is available so you can manage your Department of Buildings needs via a call, email or online.

General Questions

For general questions, please email dob-info@cityofchicago.org

Commissioner's Office

To schedule a call with Commissioner Matthew Beaudet please email DOBcommissioner@cityofchicago.org.

Permitting

To schedule a homeowner's assistance phone appointment, please email DOBeasypermit@cityofchicago.org.

If you have questions about the Easy Permit Program, please contact DOBEasyPermit@cityofchicago.org or Deputy Commissioner Martha Reynoso. 

If you have questions about a permit application submitted under the Standard Plan Review or Self-certification permitting programs contact Deputy Commissioner Hal Hutchinson

If you have questions about a permit application submitted under the Developer Services Permit Programs contact Kevin Ayakhan to schedule a virtual meeting or call with Managing Deputy Commissioner Grant Ullrich.

Inspections and Enforcement

To report an unsafe condition or work being done without permits call 311 or submit an online request.

You may request a permit-related building inspection online here.

A new procedure to avoid an administrative hearing on building code violations by submitting evidence via email is available here.

If you need additional inspection information, please contact First Deputy Commissioner Marlene Hopkins or Deputy Commissioner Carl Byrd.

When is a building permit is required?

A building permit is required before starting most types of building construction, alteration, repair, or demolition work.

A detailed list of work types that do not require a building permit, including certain small projects and non-structural repairs, is available on our website.

How do I obtain a building permit through the Easy Permit Program (EPP)?

Please follow these instructions for obtaining most types of easy permits without an in-person visit to City Hall.

In most cases, you will be able to pay online and download a copy of the permit certificate for printing.

If you are unable to pay online, you must visit either 121 North LaSalle Street (City Hall) Room 107 or 400 West Superior Street (the City’s Central Hearing Facility). Other Department of Finance Payment Centers do not have the ability to accept this type of payment or print permit certificates at this time.

You must post a copy of the permit certificate at the work site before beginning work.

How do I obtain a “short form” plumbing, ventilation, or refrigeration permit for minor work or repairs?

Please follow these instructions to apply for a "short form" permit for repairs or minor alterations to existing plumbing, ventilation or refrigeration equipment without an in-person visit to City Hall.

You will be notified by email once your permit is ready to pay for. You will need to pay for your permit at either 121 North LaSalle Street (City Hall) Room 107 or 400 West Superior Street (the City’s Central Hearing Facility). Other  Department of Finance Payment Centers do not have the ability to accept this type of payment or print permit certificates at this time.

You must post the permit certificate, which will be provided at the time of payment, before beginning work.

How do I obtain an electrical-work-only permit?

Permits exclusively for electrical repairs and alterations must be applied for online by the City-licensed electrical contractor performing the work or a City-licensed expediter working on behalf of the electrical contractor.

Permit fees for electrical permits may be paid online and the permit certificate may be downloaded and printed after the permit fee is paid.

A paper copy of the permit certificate must be posted at the work site before work begins.

How do I obtain a permit for a tent or other temporary structure?

No permit is required for tents and other temporary structures (including stages) covering up to 400 square feet. No permit is required for temporary stages and platforms that are no more than 2 feet (24 inches) high.

The Easy Permit Program (EPP) may be used for tents and other temporary structures covering up to 600 square feet. (All temporary structures within 12 feet of each other are considered together when determining the area.)

An Illinois-licensed architect or structural engineer must prepare drawings for larger temporary structures. The architect or structural engineer may use their own account or work with a city-licensed expediter to submit a permit application online. The permit application (including drawings) will be reviewed electronically.

You must display a copy of the permit certificate at all times when the temporary structure is on site.

How long is a temporary structure permit valid for?

A temporary structure permit is valid for the date range specified on the permit. Temporary structures must be removed by the end date specified on the permit or a new temporary structure permit must be obtained.

Most temporary structure permits are limited to 180 days. Temporary structure permits associated with ongoing permanent construction activity (such as a construction site office trailer) may be valid for up to one year.

How do I obtain a permit for a sign?

Sign permit applications must be started online. After completing the online sign application, you must complete a supplemental paper application and mail it to the Department of Buildings for further review. For more information on sign permits, click here.

How do I obtain a building permit based on architectural drawings?

Most building permit applications require the submission of drawings prepared by an Illinois-licensed architect or structural engineer. Since 2012, these applications are submitted electronically by the architect or structural engineer or a City-licensed expediter as part of the City’s E-Plan program.

How do I begin a permit application using the Traditional Developer Services (DS) Program?

To request an intake appointment for use of the Traditional Developer Services Program, click here.

How do I begin a permit application using the Direct Developer Services (DDS) Program?

To schedule a project introduction meeting and request use of the Direct Developer Services Program, email Kevin Ayakhan.

How do I obtain a demolition (wrecking) permit?

Demolition (wrecking) permit applications must be submitted by email to Marko Mihajlovich. The permit application is usually submitted by the bonded wrecking contractor or a city-licensed expediter working with the contractor. Once you are assigned a demolition permit application number by the Department of Buildings, you will need to obtain several related approvals before a demolition permit can be issued.

You will be notified by email once your demolition permit is ready to pay for. You will need to pay for your permit at either 121 North LaSalle Street (City Hall) Room 107 or 400 West Superior Street (the City’s Central Hearing Facility). Other  Department of Finance Payment Centers do not have the ability to accept this type of payment or print permit certificates at this time.

How do I obtain a permit for a fire alarm system?

Fire alarm systems require a permit, separate from the building permit, based on a review of shop drawings. This type of permit application must be started online by a city-licensed expediter or electrical contractor or a State-licensed private alarm contractor who has obtained a courtesy license from the City in order to access the City’s permitting system.

Since 2020, submission and review of fire alarm system permit drawings is completed electronically. Payment of fire alarm permit fees is completed online.

For more information, contact Anis Siddiqui.

How do I obtain an elevator (conveyance device) permit?

Permits to install and repair elevators and other conveyance devices (escalators, moving sidewalks, etc.) must be submitted by a City-licensed Elevator Mechanic Contractor or City-licensed expediter working with a City-licensed Elevator Mechanic Contractor.

To begin an elevator permit application, email DOB-elevator-inspections@cityofchicago.org.  

Supporting paperwork related to elevator permits, where required, may be mailed or delivered to:

City of Chicago Department of Buildings
ATTN: Elevator Permitting
2045 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago, Illinois 60612

You will need to pay for your permit at either 121 North LaSalle Street (City Hall) Room 107 or 400 West Superior Street (the City’s Central Hearing Facility). Other Department of Finance Payment Centers do not have the ability to accept this type of payment or print permit certificates at this time.

How do I obtain a permit for water service connection or disconnection?

Only a city-licensed plumbing contractor (or expediter working on behalf of a licensed plumbing contractor) may obtain a permit for water service connection or disconnection.

For water permit information, licensed plumbing contractors and expediters should email bpermits@cityofchicago.org or call 312-744-7060 during DOB business hours.

For the homeowner-initiated lead service line replacement fee waiver program, the permit application must be started here.

For hydrant use permits, apply online here.

Can contractors view the water plat books?

No. For security reasons, the water plat books are no longer available to contractors or the public.

Licensed plumbing contractors may email bpermits@cityofchicago.org to request an electronic copy of the water plat page for a specific address where work is planned.

How do I obtain a permit for sewer repair, connection, or disconnection?

Only a City-licensed drainlayer (or City-licensed expediter working on behalf of a licensed drainlayer) may obtain a permit for sewer repair, connection, or disconnection.

For sewer permit information, licensed drainlayers and expediters may email sewerpermits@cityofchicago.org or call 312-744-3155 during business hours.

How do I apply for a building code variance under the Alternative Code Approval Request (ACAR) process?

Please follow the instructions on the Alternative Code Approval Request (ACAR) webpage and application form.

The application fee must be paid at a Department of Finance Payment Center using the invoice attached to the application form before submitting the application and supporting materials to the Department of Buildings for review.

Alternative Code Approval Requests (ACARs) are only accepted electronically.

How do I change a contractor on an issued permit?

Please follow these instructions for obtaining a change of contractor permit without an in-person visit to City Hall.

How long is a building permit valid for?

A permit must be paid for within 120 days of the notification that it is ready for payment, and the permit becomes active once payment is received.

You then have six months from the date of payment to "begin" work. (Beginning work is making any alteration to a wall, floor, ceiling, or structural element of the building.) If you need to extend this start date by six months, you can pay a fee equal to 25% of the original permit fee.

If work has already begun and is put on hold for more than 365 days, the permit must be reinstated (for a fee equal to 25% of the original permit fee) before work can resume.

Please note: different deadlines may apply to projects with special zoning approvals, such as planned developments (PDs), administrative adjustments, or decisions from the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).

How do I obtain a permit time extension or reinstatement?

Email easypermits@cityofchicago.org with the original permit number. Describe what work has been completed under the original permit (if any) and include the date of your last inspection with a DOB inspector (if applicable).

You will be notified by email if staff need additional information or if a reinstatement/extension permit has been created.

You will need to pay for your reinstatement/extension permit at either 121 North LaSalle Street (City Hall) Room 107 or 400 West Superior Street (the City’s Central Hearing Facility). Other Department of Finance Payment Centers do not have the ability to accept this type of payment or print permit certificates at this time.

Have hours for construction changed?

No. To assist with social distancing, some contractors are implementing staggered shifts on job sites. However, provisions of the noise ordinance regarding the loading of construction materials (7:00 am to 10:00 pm) and the use of power equipment/tools (8:00 am to 8:00 pm) remain in effect. While people are working from home, contractors should be mindful and respectful of nearby residents, keeping noise and dust down, including no throwing debris out of windows, etc. Now, more than ever, it’s important to be a good neighbor.

How do I report an unsafe building condition?

If there is an immediate threat to life or a situation that requires an immediate response from fire, police, or emergency medical services (EMS), dial 911.

Visit 311.chicago.gov or dial 311 to report non-emergency issues. Whether you submit your report through the web site or over the phone, please provide enough detail about the condition and its location so that an inspector can respond. If the unsafe condition is inside a building that is not open to the public (such as inside your apartment), please provide contact information so an inspector can contact you to arrange for access.

How do I apply for a general contractor license or trade license?

License applications and tests are administered on behalf of the Department of Buildings by Continental Testing Services.

Renewal of licenses for supervising electricians, electrical contractors, mason contractors, plumber's apprentices, plumbers, and plumbing contractors is completed online

All other renewals are processed by Continental Testing Services.

Are there COVID-19 safety guidelines for construction sites?

For all workplaces, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) has issued Phase 5 Recommendations and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) has issued Phase 5 Reopening Guidelines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also maintain industry-specific information, including for construction workers.

Is there guidance for maintenance and repair in multifamily buildings during reopening?

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) has issued Phase 5 Reopening Guidelines which include recommendations for all types of facilities in order to help maintain healthy environments and operations as well as lower the risk of COVID-19 spread.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IPDH) has issued guidance on maintenance of plumbing systems and water quality in buildings that have been unoccupied or underoccupied for an extended period.

Is there guidance for businesses and other non-residential buildings that are reopening?

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) has issued Phase 5 Reopening Guidelines which include recommendations for all types of facilities in order to help maintain healthy environments and operations as well as lower the risk of COVID-19 spread.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IPDH) has issued guidance on maintenance of plumbing systems and water quality in buildings that have been unoccupied or underoccupied for an extended period.