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Reason #1 to be 100% paperless with online on permit applications

jar546

Chief Cook & Bottlewasher
Joined
Oct 16, 2009
Messages
9,019
Location
Palm Beach County Florida
This is an absolutely true story(zero exaggeration), and I have several very similar to this one.

A homeowner is giving one of my permit technicians a very hard time and demands to speak with the building official which is me. This is how the conversation went when I picked up the phone:

Owner: You people are holding up my renovation. I want to know what the problem is. My contractor submitted his paperwork over a month ago and has not heard back from the town at all. Why are you taking so long?

Me: Ma'am, I am sorry to hear that. Can you please give me your address? What type of work are you having done?

Owner: (gives me address) We are getting our kitchen and two bathroom remodeled. You know we have company scheduled to come and now the contractor doesn't think he can finish it time because of your delays.

Me: Ma'am, what is the name of your contractor?

Owner: (gives me the name of the contractor)

Me: Ma'am, just so you know, your contractor just signed up on our system and started filling out the permit 46 minutes ago for the first time. There are 7 required documents to upload and so far they have uploaded 1 of the 7 required documents. They are just filling it out and have not officially even submitted it to us yet.

Owner: Silence

Me: Ma'am, are you still there.

Owner: He told me he dropped off the paperwork over a month ago.

Me: Ma'am, we don't accept paperwork over the counter and even if we did, we would have to input it into the system. I am sorry but I think you need to have a conversation with your contractor. They are not even registered with the town as a contractor yet and like I said, just started the application 46 minutes ago. Ma'am you have a contractor problem, not a building department problem. I don't know why he would tell you that he applied for a permit over a month ago, when, in-fact, he has not. Our system keeps an audit log of every time a contractor or we log into the system and change something in the online application. Forty-six minutes ago he logged in as (I gave her his email address) at exactly 13:04 today.

Owner: How long will this take once he is done uploading everything.

Me: Ma'am that depends on whether or not all of his paperwork is correct. Hold on one second. (I then look at the application he uploaded) Ma'am I am looking at the actually application he submitted and you did not sign it as required and it is not notarized so our front office staff will be rejecting it. You may want to go over the paperwork with your contractor before he submits anything else incorrectly.

Owner: Thank you for your help. I will call him now.

You see in the past, we would have spend time looking around for the missing application that we never actually got. This is why I love this system. Another great thing is that we track the amount of time we wait to hear back from a contractor so it is nice to be able to report to an owner that so far the application has been in the processing state for 32 days. Two of those days were waiting for us to review and 30 of those days were waiting for the contractor to reply to a deficiency notice.
 

TheCommish

Sawhorse
Joined
Sep 27, 2011
Messages
1,515
Location
Charlton Ma
when I first started in this office my first policy decision was that everting received was date stamp, play out the similar discussion with a customer who insisted that the permit application had been in the office for a month, it had been here a week, the rest of the office was amazed
 

Sifu

Sawhorse
Joined
Sep 3, 2011
Messages
2,134
Love the story and totally agree. My big take-away from the story is accountability, which is sorely lacking. Now you can see not only when, but who did what they did and why. I have many similar stories.

The only problem is that many AHJ's I work with implemented a system for which they had inadequate training, and in most (if not all) cases bought into a software with limitations and/or no idea how to utilize it effectively. This is slowly changing for the better as people recognize the benefits like the one you just recounted and start to see the systems as a tool to make their jobs better instead of a hassle. I have always preached "document, document, document" which did no good if nobody could find the documentation. Electronic permitting is making that a lot easier.
 

MtnArch

Sawhorse
Joined
Dec 25, 2009
Messages
358
Location
San Juan Bautista, California
As a counter (no pun intended) story, I did a very simple smoothie shop interior TI in a small town two years ago. The owner (my client) walked it in with all of the paperwork filled out and paid the plan check fees. After a month she went back in to see why we had not heard back at all, and the tech at the counter claimed that it had never been submitted! My client pointed behind the tech at a roll of plans sitting in plain view on a desk, and said "Really?!?! Those are my plans sitting right there!" The town then had the audacity to take another two weeks to plan check them .. with only very minor comments!
 

Keystone

Sawhorse
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
Messages
1,133
Location
Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania
Oh do I feel the pain, with 20+/- municipalities this is a daily occurrence.

To have paperless submissions is a dream of mine. As a Third Party our issue is having numerous municipalities with varying permit application. Can it be done while having numerous municipalities, yes and no. Yes by consolidating information into one giant form or break out each municipality separately. No because it seems municipalities have a difficult time releasing power or expanding opportunity for the betterment of the process.

I’ve always had the attitude to work with the municipalities that want this and other may at some point down the road. So far i guess I’ve not provided adequate persuasion.
 

jar546

Chief Cook & Bottlewasher
Joined
Oct 16, 2009
Messages
9,019
Location
Palm Beach County Florida
As a counter (no pun intended) story, I did a very simple smoothie shop interior TI in a small town two years ago. The owner (my client) walked it in with all of the paperwork filled out and paid the plan check fees. After a month she went back in to see why we had not heard back at all, and the tech at the counter claimed that it had never been submitted! My client pointed behind the tech at a roll of plans sitting in plain view on a desk, and said "Really?!?! Those are my plans sitting right there!" The town then had the audacity to take another two weeks to plan check them .. with only very minor comments!
Yet another reason to be 100% online and paperless. This does not happen.
 

jar546

Chief Cook & Bottlewasher
Joined
Oct 16, 2009
Messages
9,019
Location
Palm Beach County Florida
Oh do I feel the pain, with 20+/- municipalities this is a daily occurrence.

To have paperless submissions is a dream of mine. As a Third Party our issue is having numerous municipalities with varying permit application. Can it be done while having numerous municipalities, yes and no. Yes by consolidating information into one giant form or break out each municipality separately. No because it seems municipalities have a difficult time releasing power or expanding opportunity for the betterment of the process.

I’ve always had the attitude to work with the municipalities that want this and other may at some point down the road. So far i guess I’ve not provided adequate persuasion.
This was the issue I had when I owned a PA 3rd party agency. Multiple municipalities. There are options that you can put in place to make this happen by purchasing your own software and inputting the parcel control numbers yourself or not requiring a PCN for upload. There are options and once you give access to those in the municipality that oversee your account they will love it. So much time and gas wasted running around picking up permit apps. If your 3rd party does not use one, it is because they chose not to. There are a ton of companies that can help you.
 
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