By Susan Miele
Feb. 27, 2019: Preparing a home construction project—whether renovating the kitchen, adding a deck, or erecting a fence—can be challenging enough with collecting bids and coping with the disruption. But starting a project without an understanding of municipal requirements can result in a longer-term headache. To help the community avert such a scenario, we set out to identify common questions and pitfalls and get authoritative guidance.
Enter Paul Taft, who assumed the role of building inspector for the Village of Bronxville Building Department in September. In addition to bringing his expertise in code enforcement and years of experience as a residential contractor, Paul brings to his role a commitment to community education. In fact, he’s busy planning a building-safety event for May 11 in recognition of Building Safety Month.
To provide a resource to homeowners, we worked with Paul to create a list of frequently asked questions to help ensure a successful project and minimal uncertainty. He emphasizes that each project is unique, so it’s important to contact the building department to ensure that your project is on the right track.
Q: What is the role of the building department?
A: The building inspector is responsible for enforcement of state codes and local laws regarding construction, building use, fire safety, and signage. The building inspector issues construction permits, administers and enforces building and zoning regulations, and issues certificates of occupancy. The building inspector is responsible for administering the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code and for issuing summonses for violations to the codes when necessary.
Q: Do I need a permit for my project?
A: The list of work requiring a building permit is extensive. While residents generally are aware of the need to obtain a permit to build a new home, demolish a structure, or create an extension, a permit is also needed for the finishing of basements and attics, roofing, new heating and air conditioning, new/replacement windows, generator installation/replacement, electrical work, plumbing, gas work, accessory structures, new driveways and parking areas, and renovation of bathrooms and kitchens. Minor permits include siding, fences, sheds, and oil tanks. Importantly, this list is not all-inclusive. Consult the building department before initiating a home project to ensure necessary permits are obtained.
Q: What is the typical time frame for obtaining a permit?
A: The building department has set a goal to issue permits in a timely fashion. Please expect that, depending on the size and complexity of a project, a building permit will take two to four weeks to obtain. Much depends on the completeness of the application, plan review complexity, and workload. This time frame does not include the time the applicant might need to respond to plan review.
Q: What fees are associated with permits?
A: Building Permit Application Fee, $150.00; building permit fee, $15 per $1,000 of the estimated cost of the job; electrical permit, $100.00; plumbing permit, $100 for the first three fixtures and $10 for each additional fixture; mechanical permit, $100 and $10 per each additional condenser; certificate of occupancy, residential, $125.00; commercial, $200.00; amendment, $100 and $15 per $1,000 of the estimated cost of the job; re-inspection fee, $100. The affidavit of final cost must be filled out with each application, and if the actual cost of the work ends up exceeding the estimated cost of the building permit, the applicant pays $15 per $1,000 in excess of the original estimate.
Q: When does a homeowner need to have his/her project considered by the zoning board, planning board, or design review committee?
A: Most single-family residential properties are exempt from review by the planning department and design review committee. They may be required to apply to the board of appeals (zoning board) for an area variance. The application to the board of appeals is a separate application from the building permit. If the proposed work can’t comply with the Village of Bronxville zoning code, then an appeal to the zoning board for relief of the code is what you are seeking.
Q: May I start work before my permit is issued?
A: Work on a project may not legally begin before a permit is obtained and displayed on the work site. Some cleanup and clearing may begin before the building permit is issued. Consult the building department for more information.
Q: What happens if I build without a permit or with an expired permit?
A: We all will sell our homes at some point. We have found that title search companies are reviewing property files very carefully and finding that work may have been done without the benefit of a building permit or have expired permits. If you may have had work performed without a building permit, serious consideration must be given to getting it legalized to ensure a safe home. If you have an expired permit, it is important to address that, as occupying the work area is not allowed until a certificate of occupancy has been obtained.
Q: What kind of restitution might a homeowner need to make if work has already been done without having obtained a permit?
A: Work started without first obtaining a building permit would need to be legalized. The owner is required to apply for a building permit for the work that was done illegally. Legalization fees that apply are as follows: legalization fee of $250 added to the $150 application fee, and the building permit fee gets doubled. Once the building permit is issued for the legalization, the owner would apply for a certificate of occupancy for the legalization. The legalization fee of $250 is also added to the certificate of occupancy fee.
Q: What building code is used in Bronxville?
A: The New York State 2017 Uniform Code, which is a supplement to the 2015 ICC family of codes
Q: What do I do if my neighbor and I are having a dispute regarding the boundary line of our properties?
A: Boundary disputes (unless concerning a municipal boundary) are private legal matters and are not within the jurisdiction of the municipality. Consult an attorney for legal advice. This is also the case for trees on private property.
Q: At what times of day is construction work allowed?
A: The following work–excavation, demolition, alterations, or repair of any building–may only be conducted Monday to Friday 8:00 am to 6:00 pm, but not on any such day that is a state or national holiday, except in the case of urgent necessity and then only with a permit from the superintendent of buildings, which permit may be renewed for a period of three days or less while the emergency continues.
Q: How do I file a complaint?
A: All complaints may be submitted in writing. A complaint form may be found on the Village of Bronxville’s website.
Q: Apart from construction projects, what safety requirements must Bronxville homeowners adhere to?
1) Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors. The most common deficiency in a home is the lack of proper protection with smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Check your home or building for the proper quantity and placement of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Regardless of the age of your home, requirements are as follows:
Smoke detectors. One in each bedroom and/or sleeping area; one outside of the bedroom and/or sleeping area; and one on each level.
Carbon-monoxide detectors. Outside of the bedroom and/or sleeping area within 15 feet of the sleeping area; one on each level.
A state law going into effect on April 1, 2019, requires solely battery-operated smoke detectors to have a nonremovable 10-year battery.
2) House Numbers. House numbers are required for all properties. When there is an emergency, time is of the essence. Click here for further details on the requirements for numbering. Section 505 Premise Identification.
3) Extension Cords. Another common risk is from the use of extension cords or multi-tap outlet strips. The use of these should be minimized. They must not be covered, as doing so can cause them to overheat and ignite. Outlet strips are designed for a maximum load, which should not be exceeded to avoid fire.
“We have been busy working to make our processes more streamlined and efficient,” Taft said. Questions and comments can be sent to
Pictured here: Paul Taft.
Photo by A. Warner