Information on how to apply for commercial alteration- tenant improvement building permits and get inspections. Includes all required applications, forms and handouts for TI permits.
Required applications and important forms
Step 1: Research your property and what you need for your project
A building permit is required to repair, alter or change occupancy or use of an existing commercial structure or multi-family residential project with three or more units.
Before you apply for a permit it is important to research the existing conditions established through reviewed, approved and Final building permits. If no permit can be found existing occupancy may be established through a Life Safety appeal process. Otherwise all work without benefit of permit, will be treated as new regardless of time it was installed.
Other items to research:
- the zoning of the property
- the applicable codes
- existing permits on site
- occupancy of the existing building
- the permit cost
- SDC charges
- feasibility of the project
- time a permit remains active
Codes in effect in Portland include City Codes, such as Titles 24 and 33, as well as State building codes. See our Codes page for more information.
Find out how to research your property and where to locate the information in preparation for your permit application.
Determine what your fees will be.
Determine what the system development charges will be for your project.
Applications must show how they meet the building code with a code summary. The building code summary is critical to convey design assumptions made for the building.
Change of Occupancy
Projects that change the occupancy of the existing space can be very complex. The Change of Use orOccupancy handout has information on this type of project.
Life Safety Summary
For very complex projects, a life-safety summary may be needed. This summary has more detail about sprinkler, fire alarms, detection systems and other construction information about the building.
"Shell" means the original building permit did not establish occupancy. Tenant Improvement permits will be taken in and routed to the original reviewer.
- Tenant Improvement permits cannot be submitted for review until the Shell permit has been issued.
- Tenant Improvement permits cannot be issued until :
- Shell permit has Final Approval or
- Shell permit has reached substantial completion determined by the Building Inspector.
Under the Shell permit, the owner was required to complete the Shell Permit Acknowledgement Statement as part of that submittal.
Seismic Strengthening Requirements
Portland City Code, Title 24.85 contains criteria that may trigger requirements for additional seismic strengthening when the work involves an existing building.
Step 2: Get Early Assistance
For projects with complicated building or fire code issues that need additional assistance, customers may request a preliminary Life Safety meeting, see the Preliminary Meeting Request Packet - Life Safety for additional information.
Land use Early Assistance requests help applicants prepare a complete project proposal, usually a land use review application. A Land Use Pre-Application Conference is required for all Type III and IV land use reviews prior to submittal of the application. They are also available but optional for lower tier Land use reviews.
Step 3: What you need for a commercial alteration - tenant improvement building permit (submittal standards)
The submittal guidelines in the required applications and forms provide a detailed list on what needs to be provided.
As part of the review process, a complete submittal is required which includes a completed building permit application, life safety completeness checklist for commercial permits, a Shell TI Acknowledgement statement, architectural, structural, electrical, mechanical, plumbing and landscape drawings.
The project will most likely need separate electrical, plumbing and mechanical permits. These permits are applied for separately once the project has been approved for issuance.
Review the drawings requirements:
- Drawings, drawn to scale where necessary to verify compliance with code.
- Drawings may be handwritten/drawn if clear and legible. Text or note shall be in print.
- Minimum drawing size: 11x17. All required information is to be clear and legible. Minimum printed text is to be 3/32” or the equivalent 12-point font.
- Cannot use professional's drawings without the permission of the professional who signed the original drawings. For example, an architect’s stamped plan set cannot be used without their permission.
Prepare the following information:
- Building permit application
- Erosion control plan.
- Life Safety Completeness Checklist for Commercial Permits
- Commercial system development charge form
- Simplified approach form, mitigation form and/or stormwater plan
- Review the submittal standards and drawing criteria from the required applications and forms: Submittal Guidelines Commercial - Major Interior Alterations or Submittal Requirements Commercial - Minor Interior Alterations
- Complete a Shell Permit Acknowledgement Statement if the project includes space that defers occupancy to a future tenant improvement permit
Step 4: How to submit your building permit application and plans
Book a BDS Intake Appointment Online to schedule an appointment to submit your plans electronically (one permit submission per appointment). You'll receive an email confirming your appointment time. You'll need to upload your completed permit application and all submittal materials before the appointment. A secure link will be provided in the email confirmation.
For most projects, electronic plans are submitted through the Single PDF process.
Large scale projects such as commercial new construction are submitted though PDX E-plans and ProjectDox.
If you are unable to create electronic plans yourself, please call us and we will work with you.
Step 5: Plan review process
A complete review of the proposed project does not begin until intake fees have been paid. Once those are paid, the project will be “under review”.
You will be sent a checksheet requesting any clarifications or corrections. For additional information on the review process, see the permitting process overview.
The bureaus/review groups that commonly check this type of project are:
- Planning and Zoning review
- Life safety review
- Structural review
- Site Development review
- Bureau of Fire and Rescue
- Bureau of Environmental Services review
- Portland Bureau of Transportation review
- Bureau of Parks and Recreation review
- Urban Forestry review
- Water Bureau review
Every project is unique and additional information may be required for review. If additional information is required to verify the work meets state and/or city requirements, a checksheet requesting any clarifications or corrections will be issued to the applicant identified on the building permit application.
Permit status can be reviewed on Portland Maps permit/case search. All first reviews must be complete before you can submit checksheet corrections. Before contacting Permitting Services to schedule an appointment to submit your checksheet corrections, please look your permit up on Portland Maps to ensure all reviews are complete. Get more information about the corrections process for paper plans.
Step 6: Permit Issuance
When the last technical review is approved, your permit will be pre-issued. Pre-issuance is the last permit check. This step ensures all required reviews took place, all required approval stamps are on the plans, and the fees are charged correctly. The applicant listed on the building permit will be contacted when the permit is ready. Staff will provide instructions on how to obtain the approved permit and pay the final fees. The permit is not issued until all fees are paid.
Step 7: Start building and get ready for inspections
The inspection card lists all the inspections you will likely need during your construction project, and what work needs to be done first.
Once your building permit is issued, erosion control measures and sometimes tree protection measures must be installed, inspected and approved prior to beginning any further ground-disturbing activities.
All permits need a final approval inspection to be complete.
Step 8: Commercial inspections, results and corrections
To schedule an inspection, call the automated inspection request line. You will need your IVR or permit number and the three digit code for the inspection. You must call before 6:00 a.m. or the inspection will be scheduled the following business day.
Get the results of the inspection on Portland Maps permit/case search the next day.
Not approved - there are some reasons why the work did not get approved:
- no access - the inspector may not have been able to inspect the work
- incomplete work
- code violations
The inspector will list the corrections needed on the inspection report. Call for a reinspection after making the corrections. Use the same three digit inspection code.
If you make the corrections the same day, wait until 5:00 p.m. to request a reinspection. The inspector needs to enter their results before you can schedule the reinspection. There is a reinspection fee charged for more than one reinspection for a single issue.
Contact commercial inspectors
If you have questions before your inspection, you can talk to an inspector. The commercial inspector area maps in the required applications and handouts list the inspector's name, area, and phone number.
Because of vacation or illness, your inspector may be different than the one listed on the map. If you have questions after your inspection, find out which inspector to call. Their contact information will be on the inspection results and on Portland maps.