Philadelphia L&I Permit Delays

11 Replies

I purchased a Cobbs Creek duplex through a turnkey provider TCS Investments in Nov 2019. The property needed a Make Safe Permit so the architecture plans were drawn up and some of the exterior work required to be remediated was done and the permit application was submitted by TCS to L&I in Feb 2020. It's been 6 months that all work is on hold waiting for the permit to be issued and I'm told that L&I has been not responded to any permit requests. TCS is telling me that L&I has essentially shut down activity since March. They had submitted an application for an appointment to resolve the issue and remove the violation on the property through the City Permit Expeditor's office back in early June but still no response. In the meantime the property sits vacant and I am paying monthly interest on a line of credit waiting for rehab to start on a property I purchased 9 months ago. I can understand the pandemic slowing things down but I wouldn't think that the L&I activity would be completely shut down for 6 months. I am being told that there is simply no response from the city to the many requests that were put in for an update. I see other Phila investors posting stories about receiving permits over the past months. I am wondering if anyone else is experiencing similar issues with L&I? I would like to think TCS is doing what they can but I the project seems stuck, the losses are mounting, and seems that there is no end in sight for getting the permit and starting rehab. The reason for wanting to use a company like TCS is help navigate through these issues but it doesn't seem to be working. Any experienced Phila investors have advice on an avenue I can pursue to get some response from L&I and get the permit process moving? Thanks!

@Alan Y. L&I has been even worse than usual in the last 5 months. It's true that it's nearly impossible to get a response from a human being recently. That being said- people are still getting things done. You just need to find a way to get your issue to the top of the "stack". The issue with a company like TCS (over 2000 units IIRC) is that they have a lot of things they need at the top of this stack so your permit is probably one of at least dozens. 

You should find out where exactly your permit application is in the process. Make sure you've linked the permit application to your eClipse profile so you can monitor the progress and have direct access. Are you still in plans approval? Are you out of plans and in the hands of your local L&I office?  Once you determine this you can work on getting a hold of a supervisor in the correct office to figure out exactly what is needed to move your permit along. It's all about connecting with a human and getting specific instruction. Easier said than done...

Hi @Alan Y.  

In a similar situation with permits, however, have only been waiting since mid May.  I also had the misfortune to hire a GC who had a partnership dispute and then ending up having to get a new license, insurance etc so that has been most of the hold up this past month.  L&I was ready to release the permits 7/10.

So, although there is a delay and their new eClipse system is a huge cause, they have not shut down nor are they not processing permit requests.  That being said, I think it also depends on the level of work needing to be done that might be taking some cases longer for approval. 

It's a squeaky wheel situation.  While you hired TCS, you might want to get copies of the emails if you don't have them.  I ended up emailing my processor directly and had to get into it with her about the delays.  She was pretty much on top of it after that and it's unfortunate this is sometimes the case.  I do feel though they are overwhelmed so I was trying to be as fair as possible but I still had a property sitting.

Another thing you might want to consider is hiring an expediter and maybe taking it out of TCS's fee.  My contractor used one (which I would NOT recommend her to you for a variety of reasons) but, they might be able to get some answers for you as to where your permits are and why the delay.  

DM me if you want her name so you can avoid her.

Best of luck!  Interested to see other responses. 

@Stacia S. thanks for the suggestion on hiring my own expeditor. I hadn't considered that. I will DM you for the contact to avoid and any other suggestions.  I do have an email from June that TCS had forwarded from an Expeditor so it seems they were heading down that path as well but so far no progress. Thanks for the advice.

@Kevin M. thanks for the suggestions. As far as I know we are out of plans and waiting for the local L&I office. I was originally told back in Feb that everything was in good shape and we were just waiting for L&I to update their system to clear the violation which should have taken a few weeks.  It seems to have just gotten stuck since then. I went with a turnkey provider because of their experience and connections with the city for this exact scenario which I thought would be advantageous but here I am with no progress.  Thanks for your advice on doing more research in eClipse to see if I can get more information.  I appreciate it.   

@Tim Butters Thanks.  I guess if I can find the council member that has an interest in that neighborhood and explain that I am trying to rehab a distressed property to improve the neighborhood they might be motivated to help.  Great suggestion.

There are definitely major delays with L&I right now, such that I still have two new construction projects that should have been permitted ~3 months ago (without the pandemic of course) that haven't been issued yet. That said, I received permits for a single family rehab that didn't have a make safe but had extensive structural work needed, engineering, etc. and it was submitted around the same time as yours and I got my permits a month or so ago. Sometimes the architects forget a requirement and you get kicked back to the start, sometimes your plans reviewer quits and they don't reassign you to a new one for a few months (that happened to me a while back), and sometimes the person spearheading this for you drops the ball. Could be any one of those things or a dozen more but you need to get proactive and start advocating for yourself. Ask for emails proving they've done what they said. Squeaky wheel gets the grease. 

The permit pains are real. My contractor applied for a building permit for a full reno back in late April through the Eclipse system. Back then, the system with chalked full of bugs. My contractor was losing his mind trying to figure out what was holding things up. Status was "Submitted" for the longest time. Then we called the L&I office. After a 3 hour hold, we finally got someone who told us what the issue was. Turns out my contractor uploaded his proof of insurance in the wrong place on the site.  They explain the correct place to upload the documentation which we would've never figured out because there weren't any instructions to be found on the site.  We finally got the permit and started the project but only after calling at least 7 times.

My advice would be to diligently call the L&I office to get the status of your application. Best of luck!

Originally posted by @Stacia S. :

The lack of instructions is infuriating! 

 They would first have to know how their system is supposed to work before they could put instructions together ;)

And that usually means it would have to actually work ;)


omg!  I feel your pain!  I bought a 3 family home and until recently my contractor hasn't been there to continue to work due to fear of COVID.  I can't really blame the contractor....I'm deathly scared of COVID too.  It has been over a year since I purchased the property and my contractor had started in Dec 2019.  I physically went to L&I a few times in the beginning of this year (gross place....i had to practice some deep yoga breathing techniques not to lose my cool with the people who work there) to clear up some issues which had delayed the permit application.  anyway, long story short I'm tired of it all.

On a side note: I was thinking of hiring a property manager bc I'm tired of it all but when I looked at TCS website where there even charge a hefty monthly fee to take care of vacant properties...i said

Fuhgeddaboudit

I'm just tired of being charged....garbage fee....this fee that fee