So you want to fix it yourself? NJ considers easing permitting rules
The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs is holding a public hearing on Wednesday on a wide array of proposed rule changes that are designed to cut down on the number of permits required for home improvement projects.
Some of the proposed amendments to the Uniform Construction Code would change what is now classified as minor work to ordinary maintenance, which does not require a construction permit and is therefore not inspected.
Additionally the proposed changes will designate some work that in the past has required the submittal of construction plans as minor work.
Jobs considered to be minor work in New Jersey do require a construction permit, but the work may begin before a permit has been issued, once notice of the work has been given, instead of having to wait for a permit to be issued.
One of the proposed rule changes would allow homeowners to make a greater number of installations, repairs or replacements of home interiors involving items like doors, windows, cabinets, partitions and railings without getting a construction permit, and bypassing fire and structural safety inspections.
Other classification changes would cover certain types of replacement and repair of floors, parts of roofs, home siding, decks and gutters, which would mean homeowners in some instances would not have to get permits for these projects and not have to have them inspected.
Additionally, the changing or replacing of certain plumbing fixtures, lighting and appliances would be reclassified as ordinary maintenance, so homeowners would not need permits or inspections.
The proposed rule changes would also let homeowners install, replace or repair burglar alarms without a permit.
Michael Darcy, the executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, said it’s very important to have public input from experts who do home improvement work and inspections before any proposed changes are adopted.
“The important thing here is, of course, building safety and quality of construction. These are not small issues, we think they are significant.”
He pointed out municipalities have inspectors that make sure all building and electrical work is done correctly “to the safety and benefit of the homeowner.”
“The homeowner doesn’t necessarily understand the work itself, so they need somebody to do the inspection.”
Darcy said under the proposed rule changes, someone could have a new electrical circuit installed in their house by their well-meaning cousin, who unfortunately does the job incorrectly. “And nobody has checked that work, and it causes a fire in the house and it catches onto the neighbor’s house. That’s one of the reasons why you have electrical inspectors.”
He pointed out if somebody builds a new door in their house “and moves an electrical appliance or weakens the structure of the home but nobody has done the inspection on that, it could cause the upper floors to collapse.”
“There’s a lot of reasons why you don’t want what could be what some people would consider minor work to fly under the radar and never be checked. It has to do with safety issues.”
DCA spokeswoman Lisa Ryan, in an emailed statement, said the changes are being proposed “to streamline the permitting process for smaller construction projects.”
“DCA reassessed its requirements because it believed that the process for these smaller projects was unduly burdensome on building owners, particularly homeowners, as well as on the workload of municipal building departments without a commensurate benefit to the safety of the public.”
Ryan added DCA will consider all comments it receives from the hearing and then decide whether amendments to the proposal are warranted. The earliest the rules could be adopted would be January.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com
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