General Construction & Permit FAQ


Can I do the work myself or do I have to hire a contractor? 

You can do the work yourself, but you must follow certain regulations. Among them are the following:

Workers' Compensation: 
If you will be hiring anyone, you may have to purchase Workers’ Compensation Insurance, which is available from a variety of agencies. If you won’t be hiring anyone, we’ll ask you to sign an "Owner-Builder Statement" to this effect. We can’t issue you a permit without either insurance or the completed Owner-Builder Statement.

Build to the plans:
Be sure to follow your approved plans, whether they are drawn by an architect or designer or are standard construction requirements given to you by the City. If you change the plans while building the structure, this will cause problems when the project is inspected. If you decide to make changes, check with the City's plan checker or your field inspector.


How do I get a building permit? 
After construction plans are completed, submit the plans for plan check at the Building & Safety Division at City Hall. Often, small projects can be approved over-the-counter; larger projects may require more time to allow for review by various City departments. Usually, replacement roofs, doors or windows, air conditioners or heaters can be approved over-the-counter. 


How long does it take to get a permit? 
Permit issuance periods vary. Some projects can be fully permitted over-the-counter, meaning a return trip won’t be needed. Some projects, however, require that plans be left for plan check. 


How long is a permit good for? 
A building permit is valid for 180 days after it is issued. In addition, the Building Official may grant a 180- day extension. In most cases, a permit will not be expired unless the applicant has failed to call for an inspection and show progress on the project for a 360-day period. Once a permit is expired, you may be required to begin the permit process from the beginning and pay all of the applicable fees again, so it is wise to avoid permit expiration. 


Remodeling or adding improvements to your home? 
Homeowners thinking about remodeling their home or adding other improvements, such as patio covers, garden walls, or room additions, many times have a number of questions about the building permits.This information is designed to give homeowners basic knowledge of when construction permits and other approvals are required by the City of Montebello. It also answers some of the most frequently asked questions and offers tips from the City. 


What about inspections? 
It is your responsibility to call us for inspections at specific times during construction. You may have your contractor make the call, but it is still your responsibility, as the property owner, to make sure the inspections are made. Inspections are made during certain points in the project, depending on the work that’s being performed. For example, retaining walls require inspections of the footing, after block is laid and steel placed but before grouting, and when all work is finished.  The project is not complete for legal purposes until it has passed the final inspection. 


What agencies or departments will need to review my plans? 

Other government agencies may need to review and approve your project. After your plans have been submitted, the City will route a set to each of the various City agencies that are required to review them, such as Fire, Planning, and Public Works Department. This is why we require that you submit multiple sets of plans. Other government agencies may also need to review and approve your project prior to permit issuance. It is the responsibility of the applicant to obtain approval from outside agencies. Other Agencies may include:

  • Los Angeles County Health Department
  • Montebello Unified School District
  • Montebello Police Department
  • Los Angeles County Sanitation

Please contact the Building and Safety Department to find out which agencies will need to approve your project prior to issuance of Building Permits.


What are permits and why do I need one? 
Permits are the way the City of Montebello regulates construction. This is designed to ensure that all construction in the city is safe. The safety of the occupants in buildings is the primary reason for having construction codes. The City of Montebello has adopted several codes, among them the International Building, Mechanical and Plumbing, and National Electrical codes. In addition, there are federal, state and local laws that govern construction, such as those that cover energy conservation. Obtaining the permit is the first step in the process. In this step, you may need to create plans to submit to the department for plan check. Once plans are approved, you’re required to build the project according to those plans. If any changes are made to the plans, they must be made with the City’s approval. The second half of the process is the inspection of the work. For more information about the inspection process, go to Inspection Information FAQs


What if I don't get a permit? 
If a permit, when needed, is not obtained before construction, you have violated City codes and regulations. You’ll be required to obtain permits for the work and expose all aspects of the work so that it can be inspected or you’ll have to return the structure or site to its original condition. 


When do I need a building permit? 

You Need A Permit For:

  • Building a block wall / retaining wall over 3 feet in height from bottom of footing to the wall cap.**
  • Construction of any detached accessory building, patio gazebo, greenhouse, etc., exceeding 120 square feet, and all attached structures to main buildings.
  • Building a swimming pool, spa, hot tub or pond.
  • Installing lawn sprinklers valves, replacing or installing new water lines, water heaters, garbage disposals, dishwashers, bathroom & kitchen sinks, gas lines, etc.
  • Installing a new or upgrade of an existing electrical service and/or adding new circuits receptacles and lighting fixtures.
  • Installing or replacing central air conditioning and heating units, wall furnaces, etc.
  • Constructing a new structure, altering or adding to an existing structure, re-roof, installing of new windows or plastering over wood siding of an existing structure.
  • Changing the grading of your lot (consult with City Public Works Department for their requirements).

When don't I need a permit? 
A Building permit is not needed for items such as:

  • Painting, color coat, sand blasting, or similar finish work.
  • Landscape projects including new planters, shrubs, and trees.
  • Concrete walkways or driveways.
  • Wrought Iron or wood fencing under 6 feet high, and garden or retaining walls under 3 feet high.
  • Minor repairs such as roof patch up, cabinet, tile work or any cosmetic projects.
  • Platforms, decks and walks 30 inches high or less over grade.
  • Small storage sheds of 120 square feet or less.

Fences 3 feet high or lower do not generally require permits. Nevertheless, the Planning Department may regulate fence height, location and type. If you are uncertain about your project, a telephone call or visit to the Planning Department may save time and headaches. Additional reviews may be required from other agencies; be sure to check before building.

For plumbing, mechanical and, electrical work, replacement or repair of fixtures (such as changing water faucets or replacing switches) does not normally require a permit. Replacing a water heater or adding a permanently wired light fixture does, however, require a permit.


Who should obtain the permit? 
Contractors licensed by the State of California or your authorized agent can obtain permits. The homeowner can also obtain the permits. If an authorized agent of the homeowner or of the contractor is going to be pulling the permits, then they must present an Authorized Agent form with notarized signatures at the time of permit issuance. 

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