July 10, 2015

Must-Know Facts About Boston’s Garage Building Regulations, Laws, & Permits

In Boston, whether you’re renovating your home or adding on to a new property you need to be aware that the city regulates construction of residential buildings. When it comes to a garage, a permit is required if you are building a brand new one or adding an extension.

The Building Division of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department is responsible for issuing permits, carrying out inspections, and reviewing plans and zoning. They also engage in appeal hearings from those who have been denied a permit.

Must-Know Facts About Boston’s Garage Building

The Process of Obtaining a Permit

Even if it involves just a minor renovation, you need to follow the process requested by the Building Division, to secure a permit to construct a new residential building or renovate an existing one:

  • Stage 1: Apply for a Permit
    First and foremost, you need to apply for a permit. You may do this online or in person at Counter 1 in the Building Division’s office.
  • Stage 2: Zoning Review
    During this stage, plan examiners review all the documents you have submitted during the application. They check for compliance and/or violation of the zoning code. This process is carried out at Counter 2 in the Building Division’s office. If you are issued a permit after the zoning review, then the process has ended.
  • Stage 3: Appeal
    If, however, your application does not meet the requirements and/or violates the zoning code, a permit is not issued. Depending on where the irregularity lies, you can apply for an appeal at the Review Board of Appeals for inconsistencies in the plan and/or the Zoning Board of Appeals if your documents violate the zoning code.

Permit Types

  • Short Form Permit

    You can apply for this type of permit if you only want to make minor changes to an existing building which don’t include: • Changing the use of the building • Increasing the living space, or • Altering the fire protection

    If you’re renovating an existing garage in Boston it’s a good idea to check with the city to determine if you need a permit for your work. You can file the application online or in person at Building Division’s office at 1010 Mass Avenue at the Counter 1 on the 5th floor.

  • Long Form Permit

    For major renovations to an existing building, a long form permit is required. In addition to building a completely new garage, these types of projects may also include: • Increasing the living space • Installing alarm system • Fireplace suppression • Changing the use of occupancy • Making other significant alterations to the building

    The process of application may be initiated online but demands an in-person visit to Counter 1 of the same office.

  • Erect/New Construction Permit
    This type of permit allows you to raise new structures on your land. You can initiate this application online, but to complete the process, in-person visit at Counter 2 is required.

Required Documents for a Short Form Permit Application

  • Complete description of planned work
  • The project cost
  • Trade license from the contractor
  • Signed contract agreement between the contractor and the homeowner
  • Homeowners of the property with less than three family members may apply without a license, but they need to sign the Homeowner Waiver form.

The Contractor Applying for a Short Form Permit Online Needs to Upload

  • License Information
  • Contract Agreement with the owner
  • Insurance Certificate
  • The compensation affidavit for State workmen

Required Documents for a Long Form Permit Application

  • Site address of the property
  • Complete scope of work
  • The name, address, and signature of the owner
  • Site plan, floor plan, and certified plot plan with the location of the building on the plot
  • Signature of a licensed contractor on the application

You may also need the contract agreement between the professional and the homeowner, nominal fee letter, Worker’s Compensation, and the Homeowner Waiver if the homeowner is the one applying.

Required Documents for an Erect/New Construction Permit Application

  • Work scope
  • Intended use of property
  • Total cost to complete the project
  • Plot plans stamped by a professional
  • The documents for zoning review

Fees for Permit Applications

The fees depend on the type of permit you wish to obtain. For the short form permit, the primary fee is set at $20, with additional $10 for $1,000 of estimated work cost. For the long form permit, the primary fee is set at $50, in addition to $10 for every $1,000 of work cost.


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