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What is a Demolition Permit?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2016
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A demolition permit is an official document from a regional government agency which allows someone to demolish a structure and clear the debris from the lot the structure is located on. People must usually apply for demolition permits when they want to completely raze a structure, or demolish a significant portion of a structure which will be left standing. These permits are usually issued by building or planning departments, and information about the specific application process for a demolition permit can be obtained from city or regional government representatives.

There are several reasons why a demolition permit is usually required. The first is safety. Governments want to make sure that buildings are torn down by skilled professionals, and that basic safety precautions will be observed. Many governments are also concerned about the utilities which may be connected to the building, and the presence of hazardous materials such as asbestos.

Governments generally also want to make sure that the area around the demolition is kept clear, and that the lot is cleaned when the demolition is over, so that a pile of debris doesn't remain. When people apply for demolition permits, they must usually specify the company and procedure that will be used, and they must demonstrate that utilities to the building have been turned off and capped, and that there is a plan in place for handling hazardous materials.

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Since demolition usually generates a substantial pile of debris, many people must also apply for an obstruction permit which will allow them to place dumpsters near the site, and to block the sidewalk or street temporarily to keep people safe from falling debris. Fees for demolition and obstruction permits are usually separate, and it is a good idea to apply for both at the same time, to assure the local government that every step of the procedure has been considered and planned for.

When a building demolition is planned, the demolition company may agree to handle the demolition permit application as part of the services they provide. However, the property owner is still responsible for confirming that a demolition permit has been obtained before work begins, and it is advisable to ask for a copy, and to confirm that it has been filed with a government official. Demolition permits are also a matter of public record, and property owners may want to be aware that applications can often be contested by people who oppose the demolition for various reasons, ranging from a desire to preserve historic property to concerns about quality of life in the neighborhood.

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