Honolulu’s 2024 Updated Permitting Process

Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting recently announced some much needed improvements to the permitting process, many of which will benefit property owners hoping to renovate or build their dream home. 

Applicants can now pay for their permits online, instead of bringing a physical check to DPP offices. Additionally, the department has upgraded their software system to a more user-friendly program designed to expedite the permitting process. According to the DPP, the pre-screening process that once took months now takes as little as five days. 

In order to best navigate Honolulu’s ever-evolving permitting process, here’s what homeowners need to know: 

When do I Need a Permit?

According to the DPP, a building permit is required to “construct, alter or demolish any structure,” including electrical or plumbing work over $2,500 or  any general repairs over $10,000. Permits are still required even if a proposed renovation does not fundamentally change the square footage or layout of a home.

So while it is highly likely that your upcoming project will require some type of permit, there are still some ways to expedite the process based on the project. 

Do I Qualify for an Instant Online Permit?

In order to further expedite the overall permitting process and reduce the backlog of applications, Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting now offers instant online permits for certain renovation or remodeling projects. 

As a general rule, instant online permits are available for properties that do not carry an existing advisory/warning, are not a shoreline property, and are not located in a designated flood zone.

The scope of work for an instant online permit generally involves projects that aim to repair or replace plumbing and electrical systems within the residence, the installation of new windows or fencing, and basic repairs to sidewalks or driveways. You can find a full explanation of qualifying projects for instant online permits via the DPP Honolulu website. 

Because instant online permits only cover a limited number of projects, they are generally not available for large-scale remodeling projects or new construction projects. If you are planning a major renovation or hoping to build a new home, you’ll need to apply for a standard building permit. 

Applying for a Regular Building Permit

Projects that do not meet the qualifications for an instant online permit must apply for a regular building permit application alongside the corresponding building plans. The DPP has provided a Building Permit Checklist outlining all the steps required before applying for a permit. 

The major steps outlined in the Building Permit Checklist  involve the submission of every relevant site plan, including (but not limited to) both interior/exterior plans, as well as plans for flooring, plumbing, electrical, roofing, irrigation, and power. A cost breakdown and scope of work description is also required. Both the permit application and plans must be submitted online. 

Some new construction/renovation projects may qualify for the One Time Review or OTR-60 process. This process provides applicants with a turnaround of 60 days or less, significantly reducing the wait time for a building permit. 

The OTR-60 application limits all agency reviews to only one cycle. After all the plans are reviewed once by the relevant agencies, the applicant must guarantee that any issues addressed in the review will be resolved. Compliance will be confirmed during construction by DPP inspectors. 

Some projects that do not qualify for the One Time Review process include projects that require FEMA flood certifications, Shoreline Setback certifications, affordable housing agreements, and discretionary land use projects (among others.) You can review the eligibility requirements via the One Time Review (OTR-60) checklist provided by the DPP.

Despite the numerous upgrades to Honolulu’s permitting system, applying and successfully obtaining a building process can still be a challenge. Fortunately, Home Planning Hawaii can help assist you in navigating this process, including finding the right permitting experts and third-party review professionals best suited for your project. Contact us today for more information and help getting started. 

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