FAQs

What are permits and why do I need one?
A permit is a document that, upon final inspection approval, will provide assurance to the property owner and occupants that construction activity has been performed safely and in accordance with State and local codes. Information found on the permit includes: the property owner’s name and address, the names and addresses of the contractor and designer, the scope of work to be performed, and a record of inspection activity from the start of construction through the approved final inspection. The permit document provides a valuable history of a building which can assist when future additions or alterations are planned. Lastly, as real estate transactions require disclosure of all improvements, the permit document will be invaluable when you sell or refinance your home.
Who should obtain a permit?
You, as the property owner, or your authorized agent may obtain permits for your property. An authorized agent is a licensed contractor or any individual who brings a notarized letter from the property owner designating them as their agent for the purpose of obtaining permits. If, however, you are contracting to have the work done it is always wise to have the contractor obtain the permits. In this way, you can be sure the contractor retains the responsibility to call for, and receive approval of all required inspections.

Please refer to the State of California Contractor’s State License Board (CSLB) for important contractor information and to verify that your contractor is licensed.
How long is a permit valid before it expires?
Every permit shall expire if the work authorized by the permit is not commenced within 180 days from the date of issuance or if the work is suspended or abandoned for a period of 180 days at any time after construction progress is last documented. A permit may be extended only once prior to expiration for a period of time not to exceed 180 days. To extend the expiration date the applicant must provide a written request to the Building Official, which shows that circumstances beyond the control of the applicant have prevented the work from progressing.
How do I apply for a permit online?
Please see our handy step-by-step brochure that explains how to apply for your permit using our on-line application system by clicking here . If you still have questions about this process please e-mail us at ocpcustomercare@ocpw.ocgov.com or call us at 714-667-8888.
I want to run a business out of my home. Do I need permits and a business license?

Businesses are not allowed in residential zones. However, some home occupations are allowed per the Orange County Zoning Code section 7-9-146.6. Please see the following excerpt from the Orange County Zoning Code page 219.

Business licenses are handled through the Sheriff’s Department for unincorporated areas of the County of Orange and are regulated by individual cities if your property is located in a city. The County of Orange only requires business licenses for certain kinds of businesses.

For additional information on business licenses, please click here for the Sherriff’s Dept FAQs.

My permit has expired, how do I renew it?
Per the 2007 California Building Code Vol. 1 –Appendix Sec.105.5 a permit that has expired may be extended by the Building Official for 180 days with payment of an extension fee. The extension shall be requested in writing and justifiable cause demonstrated.
What items should I bring with me in order to apply for a permit?
This depends on the type of permit you are applying for. Click here for a printable checklist available for your reference.

For planning applications (use permit, variances, etc.) please click here to view the full requirements and samples.

If you are applying for a permit for encroachment (building or grading) on County right of way, please view the requirements.

I want to build a new house/add on to my house/add a new garage/patio structure etc. What do I need to know?
You will need to know the zoning for your property and the site development standards, including setbacks. You will also need to know whether the structure is located in a flood plain or a fire hazard zone as these designations may significantly impact the design of your project. We will be happy to research your property information for you in whichever of the following ways is most convenient for you: by Email, by phone at (714) 667-8888, or in person at the Public Counter during our extended business hours of (7:30 A.M. – 5:00 P.M. Monday through Friday). Once you have this basic property information a licensed engineer or architect can design your project for you and ensure that it complies with all applicable zoning and building regulations.
I want to build a wall. Do I need permits?

It depends on the height and location of your wall. There are two different sets of regulations with which your wall must comply: structural and zoning.
For structural purposes the wall should not be retaining and should not exceed six (6) feet in height. For additional information on structural requirements please see the following handout structural wall handout.

For zoning purposes the maximum height shall be three and one-half (3½) feet within any required front setback area and six (6) feet within any rear or side setback area (through which no vehicular access is taken) adjoining a street, up to a maximum depth of twenty (20) feet per Zoning Code section 7-9-137.5 (b).

If you are unsure of your property’s zoning please Email the address with your request for additional information or call (714) 667-8888.

I need to demolish a structure. How do I get a permit to demolish/remove a structure?
You will need to bring four copies of a plot plan as well as an asbestos disclosure form in order for us to issue you a demolition permit. State law requires that a copy of each written asbestos notification be submitted to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) . If anyone other than the property owner at a single-unit dwelling personally conducts any part of a renovation/demolition in a dwelling they must submit all written asbestos notifications for the building to the AQMD.
I want to build an attached patio cover or trellis. Can I use a standard plan?
We are happy to provide our customers with the convenience of standard plans for attached (to a permitted building) patio covers or trellises. However, please note that all patio covers and trellises require Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) approval. If your property is in a high fire hazard severity zone this may significantly impact the construction of the project. For this reason, all plans must first receive OCFA approval and then will be checked by our department. For your convenience, a representative from OCFA is available at our public counter on alternating Thursdays from 8 AM through 12 PM.
I want to relocate my existing septic system or install a new septic system. How do I get a permit for this work?
First: you must obtain clearance from the appropriate Regional Water Quality Control Board prior to submitting plans to our office. You can determine which Board is responsible for your property and also obtain contact information by viewing the map at www.waterboards.ca.gov. Once you obtain this clearance you will proceed as with any other permit by submitting the necessary plans and documents for approval.
I want to obtain a permit for solar panels. What should I know before I apply?

OC Planning offers solar panel permits for photovoltaic and solar water heating systems. The County of Orange is an agency that encourages energy efficiency and the application of new technologies. Accordingly, solar panel permit fees have been waived by the Board of Supervisors through June 30, 2013 (Ord. 08-013). Depending on your unique solar project additional permits may be necessary to ensure the safety of the structures; fees for these associated permits are not waived. For instance, if your solar panels are ground-mounted they may also require a building permit. Solar water heating systems will also require a plumbing permit (in addition to the basic solar panel permit). To obtain a permit you will need to submit plans including a basic plot plan and wet-stamped and signed structural calculations.

Zoning regulations vary depending on geographic location within the County and typically involve the evaluation of compliance with setbacks and approval by the local Homeowners Association. Additionally, depending on the nature of the proposal, the County may require submittal of glare impact analysis. We are here to help you and review your individual project. The best way to determine what is required or how you can best incorporate solar panels into your home or business is to contact us by phone, e-mail or in person at the public counter.

I want to open a business or take over operation of an existing business. What permits and/or licenses does the County of Orange require?

For unincorporated areas of the County of Orange land use is handled by OC Planning; cities have jurisdiction over incorporated city properties. In general, businesses are allowed in areas zoned for business use. However, the types of businesses allowed depend on the specific property zoning. For this reason, we recommend that you contact us early in the process of starting a business so that we can assist you in achieving your goals by providing you with a thorough understanding of the zoning regulations that apply to the specific property or area where you would like to establish your business.

OC Planning issues use and occupancy permits or occupancy permits when the use and/or occupancy of a property changes (for example, when a new business owner takes over an existing business or a new business is established).

Business licenses are handled through the Sheriff's Department for unincorporated areas of the County of Orange and are regulated by individual cities if your property is located in a city. The County of Orange only requires business licenses for certain kinds of businesses. For additional information on business licenses, please click here for the Sheriff's Dept FAQs.

Why do I need an encroachment permit?
An encroachment permit is required anytime personal property or improvements are placed on publicly owned property.
How do I apply for a public property permit?
Applications can be found in the Permits and Related Forms section of the website or you can email ocpCustomerCare@ocpw.ocgov.com or call us at  714.667.8888.

Applications can be found in the CPP Permit Forms section of the website or you can contact our helpdesk: CPP Help Desk or 714.834.5529
How long does it take to get a public property permit?
Processing time varies depending on the type of permit. It is a good idea to apply as far in advance as possible.
How much does it cost to get a public property permit?
Permit fees vary depending on the type of permit. All permits for public property are subject to a minimum $65.00 filing fee that is due at the time of application. Additional fees may be required. A refundable surety deposit may also be required.
Why do I need to pay a surety deposit?
Should any damage to County facilities occur during or as a result of your permitted activity the surety deposit will be used to offset the County's cost of repair.
When will my surety deposit be refunded?
A surety deposit will be refunded when the Inspector signs off the permit as completed.
Why does my contractor need insurance?
To protect the County from liability, any third party hired by the permittee to conduct construction activities on County Property must have insurance that names the County as an additional insured.
What kind of insurance do I need?
A policy of liability insurance with an endorsement naming the County as an additional insured is required. The endorsement must contain a primary and non-contributory statement.
How long is my public property permit good for?
Permit expiration dates vary based on permit type.  Construction permits are generally valid for a period of six months and can be renewed. At no time can we extend a permit past the expiration of the insurance policy provided by the vendor or contractor.
Can I renew my permit?
Most permit types can be renewed by applying for an extension, called a rider. The rider requires a non-refundable minimum processing fee of $65.00. Some permit types require additional fees for renewal.
Where do I go to obtain a permit?
Our office is located at 300 North Flower Street, Santa Ana, California. The public counter is located on the first floor of the building. Our office hours are 7:30 AM through 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday.
Do I need a Traffic Control Plan?
If you are performing any work on an Arterial Highway (major road) you are required to submit a Traffic Control Plan.
What form of payment is accepted?
Permit fees can be paid by cash, check, money order, Visa, Mastercard, or American Express.
Can someone else sign for and/or pick up my permit?
With a Letter of Authorization (LOA) you can designate someone else to sign for or pick up your permit. An LOA in no way absolves the permittee of the ultimate responsibilities pursuant to the permit.
What number do I call for a public property permit inspection?
The inspection phone number will be printed in the upper left hand corner of the permit. You are required to call for inspection at least 48 hours in advance of beginning work and again after all work is completed.
How can I get a record of the permits for a specific property?
We will be happy to research the permit history for a property. You may submit your request by  Email or by calling our research request line at: (714) 667-8888
I want copies of plans submitted to your office. However, I have heard that I must get approval from the “owner” of the plans. How do I determine who owns the plans?

This depends on the type of plans in question. State law stipulates that plans become copyrighted documents when an architect or engineer has placed their professional seal upon them. As such, they may not be duplicated without the written authorization of the architect or engineer who prepared them. The law also requires the owner authorize the duplication of the plans.

Grading plans are often exempt from this requirement and may be copied by the owner of the property or other interested individuals without any sort of release requirement.

If you would like copies of plans that require authorization (non grading plans), you will need to complete the affidavit form and return it to us with the property owner’s signature. If you are an agent acting on behalf of the property owner you will also need to submit a letter granting you permission to act as the agent of the owner for the purpose of obtaining copies of plans with a copy of the property owner’s driver’s license for verification.
Our staff will contact the architect or engineer directly, on your behalf, by certified mail and request their permission to provide you with a copy of the plans. If we receive a refusal to duplicate the plans or get no response after 30 days we will forward all documentation to the Building Official for review; in these cases the Building Official will determine whether or not we can duplicated the plans. Once we have received authorization from the engineer or architect or the Building Official has determined that the plans can be duplicated we will contact you directly. You will make an appointment to meet with us at that time. When you come in for your appointment you will mark the pages of the plans that you would like duplicated and can then either return to pick up the plans or pay for postage to mail the plans. The fee for County of Orange duplication services is $2.53 per sheet plus tax.

How can I find out where my property line is located?
If you are not sure where your property line is, or if you and your neighbor are in disagreement about the location of a common property line, you may need to hire a land surveyor. It is unlawful for anyone to do land surveying or offer to do land surveying unless he or she is currently licensed as a land surveyor in the State of California. The County of Orange does not offer land surveying services to the public. If you want to research documents related to your property lines, you can contact the County of Orange Geomatics/Land Information Center for maps and documents related to property lines. The State of California Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors also maintains a helpful website should you find you need a surveyor.
Where can I get information about my lot size or dimensions?
You can now access this information on the internet at the following link: Land Records System.
Where can I look to see if a contractor is licensed in California?
The California Contractors State License Board web site will allow you to check a contractor license.
What is the turnaround time for plan checks?
The turnaround time for a first plan check is about 15 working days. The turnaround time for rechecks and revisions is about 10 working days.
I need to revise my building permit and or plans; how do I do that?
First: call the Chief Plans Examiner at Orange County Public Works, Orange County Permit Intake at (714) 667-8874 to review the scope of work involved in the revision. He will evaluate your individual project and will let you know what is required for your revision submittal. Then: bring the approved, stamped plans as well as the revised plans to the public counter located at 300 North Flower St., Santa Ana between the hours of 7:30 AM and 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday.
I was given a copy of my plans and a card called a “job card” when I received my permit. What do I do with these items?
The plans you received have been reviewed and approved by the County of Orange. This is the set of plans your inspector will refer to when conducting inspections on your project. The inspection record is the property owner's official record of the inspection activity that has been approved for the project. The approved plans and inspection record must be made available to the inspector every time he or she visits the project.

It is customary to post the inspection record in an accessible, plainly visible location that has been protected against damage from weather, unauthorized personnel, etc. If you are the property owner and have hired someone else to complete work, including the necessary permits, it is strongly recommended that you receive the official inspection record, not a copy, which clearly indicates approval of the final inspection before making the final payment for the project.
Who is my building inspector for today and how can I talk to the inspector?
Inspectors are available for telephone calls between 7:00 A.M. and 7:30 A.M. and 3:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. or you may leave a message on their voicemail.

If you cannot reach your inspector, call the Senior Building Inspector at (714) 667-8819 or the Chief Building Inspector at (714) 667-8811.
I obtained a simple permit, what inspection do I call for first?
A simple permit, in this reference, is a permit that is either done over the counter or with minimal plan check. Inspections are required for all building permits. Once an inspection is scheduled a customer can then refer all questions directly to a building inspector. Below is a guide for what inspections are usually required to be called first; this will assist the customer if they are unfamiliar with the inspection process. Inspection requests will vary for more difficult projects. For further questions contact our inspection department at: (714) 667-8811

Residential Flat Fee Permits (RF) - Final inspection for area of work. (i.e. water heater permit would have a Plumbing Final inspection, FAU would be Mechanical Final, etc.)

Re-Roof Permit (RS) - Roof Sheathing / Framing (130)

Minor Bathroom/ Kitchen Remodeling Permit (RS) )– Rough Plumbing (230), Mechanical (310), and Electrical (415), Underground water/gas (210/207) shall be done first if relocating piping for fixtures.

Patio (RS) – Foundation inspection (105). Final Only for Aluminum Patio (195)

Window change out without structural (RS) – Final Only (195)

Interior loft addition (RS) – Rough Plumbing (230), Mechanical (310), and Electrical (415)

Electrical Panel Change Out (EL) – Final only (495)

Gas Line for BBQ/Fire pit (PB) – Underground Gas (207) and Gas Test (240) - if permit is for future hook up then Final can be called at the same time.

Solar (SL) - Final Only (195)

Swimming Pool (SW) – Pre-Gunite Bonding (540), Underground Gas (550) and Underground Electrical (560)

Can I pay my fees with my credit card or ATM card?
Yes. The County of Orange accepts payment by VISA, MASTERCARD, or ATM card. In addition, payments can be made by credit card by faxing a credit card authorization form to the Cashiering office during our normal business hours, Monday through Friday from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM.
I received a letter from a Community Preservation officer. What do I do?
Contact the assigned code enforcement officer that is noted in the letter. They will assist you in understanding the situation and what options that you have for your property.
Why am I being subjected to enforcement when my neighbors are doing the same thing?
The Orange County Board of Supervisors directed in 2002 that code enforcement is to be response driven. We only open investigations when we receive a complaint from the public. If you are contacted about a code violation, it is response to a complaint that the County has received about your specific property.
If I want to file a complaint about a neighbor’s property, can I be anonymous?
The answer is usually yes. Our procedures strive to maintain the confidentiality of complainants. You do not have to provide your name when filing a complaint. However, for the few percent of complaints that ever evolve to a court action, all information from the case is then provided to the court.
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