Saturday, July 19, 2008

Building Permits by E-mail

I have previously posted here (October 9, 2007) about the importance of checking for building permits when you are buying or selling a house. Most agents don't bother with this, either because they don't know the consequences of buying or selling a home with an unpermitted addition (which is a huge proportion of the houses in Central Tucson), or they figure what their client doesn't know won't hinder the house sale.

Some agents are aware of the need to check permits to the extent that they go to the City of Tucson's Development Services web site and look there. If they don't find anything, they conclude no permits exist. The problem with this is the City has only put permits on their web site for the past few years. Most of the carport and porch enclosures occurred decades ago.

Friday I went to the Development Services office at 201 North Stone Avenue to look up the permits for a house I have in escrow. I was dismayed to find that I can no longer request the microfiche of the permits and have a paper copy made on the spot. Now I have to submit my request, and the staff will e-mail the permits to me in a day or so.

This had to happen eventually. I was always amazed that the City let people get their hands on these microfiche, the only records of the building permits. Because the City will only make 10 copies per customer per day, a lot of the microfiche were stolen. More were probably misfiled and lost forever. Until a few years ago, people could take the microfiche without even giving their name. Then a form with name, address and phone number was required, but no one verified the contact information, so I doubt this had much effect on the disappearance of microfiche.

Now that I know the drill, it will be a pleasure to request permits online at I will not miss the drive downtown, paying $2 to park in the garage, and impairing my vision and sanity while trying to use the ancient microfiche reader.

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