Skip to main content
This section is included in your selections.

Click here to view prior versions of this section.

A. Permits Required. No person shall cause any work to be done, regulated by this code or the technical codes, unless a permit has first been obtained.

B. Except as specified in this code or the technical codes, no building or structure or portion thereof, or any electrical, gas, mechanical, plumbing system, fire protection or fire alarm system regulated by this code or the technical codes shall be erected, constructed, deconstructed, installed, enlarged, altered, repaired, moved, prepared for move or relocation, lifted from its foundation, placed, improved, removed, converted, enlarged, replaced or have its occupancy/use changed unless an approved permit, and as applicable approved construction documents, have been issued by the city and are in the possession of the permittee and posted on the job site.

C. A valid and fully completed building permit application for a building or structure, that is permitted under the zoning or other land use control ordinance in effect on the date of the building permit application shall be considered under the building permit ordinance in effect at the time of application, and the zoning or other land use control ordinances in effect on the date of application.

D. Exempted work. Unless land use approval is required under VMC Title 20, as noted in subsection (D)(2) below, a building permit shall not be required for the types of work in each of the separate classes of work listed below. Exemption from such permit requirements of this code shall not be deemed to grant authorization for any work to be done in violation of the provisions of the technical codes or any other laws of the city of Vancouver.

1. Exempt from building permit:

a. Fences not over six (6) feet above grade, as measured from adjacent sidewalk or street level. Except when a fence is required as a swimming pool barrier.

b. Nonfixed and movable fixtures, cases, racks, counters and partitions not over five (5) feet nine (9) inches high.

c. Painting, papering and similar finish work.

d. Temporary motion picture, television and theater stage sets and scenery.

e. Prefabricated swimming pools, hot tubs and spas supported directly on grade accessory to one and two family dwelling occupancies in which the pool walls are entirely above grade, but not more than twenty-four (24) inches high, and the pool capacity does not exceed 5,000 gallons and the pool, hot tub or spa electrical equipment is cord and plug connected only and filling with water is done via a hose bib with portable hose.

f. Water tanks supported directly on grade if the capacity does not exceed 5,000 gallons and the ratio of height to diameter or width does not exceed two (2) to one (1).

g. Walkways, and decks accessory to one and two family dwelling occupancies, not more than eighteen (18) inches above grade and which are not placed above any basement. [See VMC 20.910.040 for prohibitions of such similar structures within eighteen (18) inches of any lot line.]

h. Window awnings supported by an exterior wall of Group R, Division 3, or Group M or U occupancy, when not projecting more than fifty-four (54) inches from the exterior wall and do not require any additional support and do not encroach into a required yard setback or public right of way.

i. Any paving or flatwork, except as required in paragraph (2)(f) below for zoning approval.

j. Structures for the storage of implements and products used in agricultural activities located in an agricultural zone. Structures that are not exempt include: any structure that is a residence or a place for the public; or a place of employment where agricultural products are treated or processed.

k. Field fences associated with agricultural activities in an agricultural zone.

l. Swings and other playground equipment.

m. Retaining walls which are not over four (4) feet (1219 mm) in height measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall, unless supporting a surcharge or impounding Class I, II or III-A liquids.

n. One-story detached accessory buildings used as a tool and storage shed, playhouse or similar use, provided the floor area does not exceed 120 square feet.

o. Roof covering, first or second layer, where there is no structural modifications or repair or replacement required including roof sheathing, on one – and two-family dwellings.

p. Replacement of window and door assemblies utilizing existing framed openings and not requiring fire resistive rating in one – and two-family units.

q. Replacement of siding where there is no structural modification or repair required to the structural frame including wall sheathing on one – and two-family dwellings or low rise multi-family dwellings where there is no requirement for fire resistive construction except projects that are subject to State of Washington HB 1848.

r. Replacement of kitchen and bath cabinets that do not require the modification of electrical or plumbing systems.

s. Construction job site trailers when there is an active building permit for the site or project.

2. Land use permits are required, however, to establish approval under the zoning code (VMC Title 20) for the following:

a. One-story detached accessory buildings used as tool and storage sheds, playhouses and similar uses with a floor area of 120 square feet or less when located in a critical area as defined in VMC Chapter 20.740.

b. Fences over (30) thirty inches high as measured from adjacent sidewalk, street level or grade when located in a critical area as defined in VMC Title 20. Fences in critical areas must be constructed in conformance with VMC Chapter 20.710. (Fences over (6) six feet high require a building permit.)

c. Oil derricks.

d. Any retaining wall, which is over (30) thirty inches in height (measured above adjacent sidewalk grade or street level), but less than four (4) feet in height (measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall) when located in a critical area as defined in VMC Title 20. Retaining walls in critical areas must be constructed in conformance with VMC Title 20.740. All larger retaining walls or walls supporting a surcharge or impounding Class I, II or III-A liquids require a building permit.

e. Water towers and reservoirs.

f. Driveways and/or any paving within any yard setbacks as defined in VMC Title 20, and any paving or flatwork that would provide potential parking or access to a potential parking area or when proposed to be located in a critical area as defined in VMC Title 20.

3. Plumbing Permits. A plumbing permit shall not be required for the following:

a. The stopping of leaks in drains soil, waste or vent pipe, provided, however, that should any concealed trap, drainage pipe, soil, waste or vent pipe become defective and it becomes necessary to remove and replace the same with new material, the same shall be considered as new work and a permit shall be procured and inspection made as provided in this code.

b. The clearing of stoppages or the repairing of leaks in pipes, valves or fixtures, nor for the removal and reinstallation of water closets, lavatories, sinks, or tub/showers, provided that such repairs do not involve or require the replacement or rearrangement of valves, pipes or fixtures

4. Mechanical Permits. A mechanical permit shall not be required for the following:

a. A portable heating, ventilating, cooling or evaporative cooling appliance.

b. A system of steam, hot or chilled water piping within heating or cooling equipment or appliances regulated by this code.

c. Replacement of any component part or assembly of an appliance which does not alter the listing and inspection approval or make such equipment or appliance unsafe and complies with other applicable requirements of the technical codes.

d. Self-contained refrigeration systems that contain 10 pounds (4.5 kg) or less refrigerant or that are actuated by motors of 1 horsepower (0.75 kw) or less.

e. Portable fuel cell appliances that are not connected to a fixed piping system and are not interconnected to a power grid.

5. Fire protection system permits. See VMC Chapter 16.04 for permit exemptions.

6. Electrical Permits. For a list of items exempt from electrical permit requirements see VMC Section 17.16.040.

E. Annual permit. In lieu of an individual permit for each alteration to an already approved electrical, gas, mechanical or plumbing installation, the building official is authorized to issue an annual permit upon application therefore to any person, firm or corporation regularly employing one or more qualified tradespersons in the building, structure or on the premises owned or operated by the applicant for the permit. Inspections are required monthly of all work performed during the previous month.

F. Annual permit records. The person to whom an annual permit is issued shall keep a detailed record of alterations made under such annual permit. The building official shall have access to such records at all times or such records shall be filed with the building official as designated.

G. Early Start Permits. An early start permit is a partial permit to proceed with work such as demolition and limited construction before a full permit is issued. The owner shall provide a written statement of assumption of all risks associated with an early start permit. The issuance of an early start permit does not convey any vested rights to construction work that is not in conformance with applicable codes. For an early start permit to be approved, projects must have obtained required city development review approvals. Fees for early start permits shall be the same as deferred submittal applications established in VMC Section 17.08.130 Table V.

H. Emergency repairs. Where equipment replacements and repairs must be performed in an emergency situation the permit application shall be submitted no later than the next business day to the building official and a permit obtained or the repair of work will be considered as work without a permit and will be subject to enforcement per VMC Title 22.

I. Public service agencies. A permit shall not be required for the installation, alteration or repair of generation, transmission distribution or metering or other related equipment that is under the ownership and control of public service agencies by established right.

J. Single permit. When work, for which a permit is required, involves two or more codes, the permit holder shall pay a single permit fee at the time of issuance of all building permits for the work described in the application, unless one of the following exceptions applies.

1. Separate permits and fees are required for signs, fire extinguishing systems, and fire and burglar alarms, and for work in the public right-of-way.

2. Electrical contractors shall obtain a permit of record subject to the fee contained in this chapter, when they are doing electrical installations covered under a single permit. (Ord. M-4079 §8, 2014; Ord. M-4052 §6, 2013; Ord. M-3958 §10, 2010; Ord. M-3863 §5, 2008; Ord. M-3660 §4, 2004)