The Building Code Appeal process is a relatively quick way to receive a formal response to requests for:
An alternative way to meet the intent of a code provision (building, mechanical, electrical, plumbing or floating structures code) when compliance with the letter of the code isn’t feasible.
Confirmation of an interpretation of code language from the Building Official.
If you are thinking of making an appeal, you should consult with plan reviewers or inspectors prior to submitting an appeal for assistance identifying code requirements and possible alternative solutions that could be approved. Please note there are other types of appeals that have their own processes:
Check out recent appeals online
Review recent appeals and search for appeals online.
Prepare Your Appeal
Appellants must have an alternative method of meeting the intent of the code. The appeal must demonstrate how the proposed alternative provides equivalent protection as the code requires for health, accessibility, structural capacity, energy conservation, life safety or fire protection.
The Administrative Appeals Board only hears appeals pertaining to Building, Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, Floating Structures Codes and relevant Portland City Code Titles. Appeals for each specific Code are processed separately, so a single appeal package may not contain items from different Codes. However, if multiple appeals are submitted together, only the first is charged the full fee, with the others charged as Additional Items at a reduced fee.
Completed building code appeal packet
A complete Building Code Appeal Packet consists of:
- Building, electrical, mechanical or plumbing code appeal application(s)
- Plans and any supplemental information
- Appeal fee
Building code appeal application instructions
The following sections of the building code appeal application provide the primary information from which the Appeal Board will make a decision. It is critical that information provided in these sections be clear, concise, accurate and completely written. Each appeal submittal must be a comprehensive set of documents and stand on its own merit (without referring to plans or material submitted separately for building permits) and will be reviewed based on the specific conditions related to the project under consideration.
- Code Section and Requirements: This section asks first for the specific code section being appealed and the text of that code section. It is important to accurately specify the code section being appealed and what it requires.
- Code modification or alternate being requested: Summarize the intent of the appeal preferably in one sentence. You may use the decision language of past appeals as a guide where a decision has been rendered (not Pending). See the most recent 1,000 appeals at the BDS Appeals Search page by clicking on the Search tab with all fields left blank. Appeals similar to yours may be located by entering specific code language from the code section being appealed in the Appeal Decision Keywords field and clicking on Search. Results may be further refined by selecting the specific Appeal Type (Building, Mechanical, etc.).
- Proposed design: This section asks you to describe the actual alternate method and/or materials of construction that are proposed for use. It is important that the actual conditions you are asking to have approved be described. This is not the section where equivalency or rationale for use of the proposed design should occur. Provide a reference to specific materials, plans, details or sections in the text. Also, provide a cross reference on the provided plans showing the location of the appeal(s) and on specific details that apply to the appeal(s).
- Reason for alternate: This is the section where you should describe how or why the proposed design provides an equivalent level of fire or life safety to what the code requires and the reason you are requesting the alternate. Do not repeat the language of the Proposed Design.
Plans to include with your appeal application
One set of plans that addresses your appeal separate from any plans submitted for permit processing) must accompany appeal applications. The Board is not able to search for plans submitted as part of a separate permit. Plans should provide sufficient information to detail the areas that are being appealed as well as any areas that may be affected by or that may affect the appeal. Do not include plans that do not directly relate to the code section being appealed. Non-appeal-related plans may cause appeal-specific information to be overlooked.
All attachments should be non-password protected and submitted as pdf files. Note that very large files may not be accepted by the system.
Examples of plans frequently left out of the submittal that are likely to result in a request for additional information include a Site Plan and Floor Plans of the area(s) being appealed. Also, where exiting is involved complete Egress Plans are required.
Helpful information to include with your appeal
Supplemental information, such as photographs, engineering analysis, test data, etc, that will help to clarify the appeal and make it easier for the board to understand the conditions being appealed or which supports the argument for equivalent safety are welcome accompaniments to the appeal submittal. However, photographs are to be used as a supplement only. They do not take the place of plans, specifications, etc.
Note: Plans submitted with information not directly pertaining to the item(s) being appealed are not deemed to be granted by the appeal simply because they were part of the granted appeal. For example, an appeal decision granting a decrease in minimum ceiling height does not also grant a separate non-compliant stair handrail simply because it was shown in the plans submitted for the headroom appeal.
Cost to file an appeal
The following fee must be submitted with the building code appeal application:
- 1 & 2 Family Residential: $250 (up to and including four appeal items) $125 for each appeal item over four, when submitted at the same time. Please note: these fees increase to $263 and $132, respectively, for appeals filed on or after July 1, 2021.
- Other occupancies: $501 (up to and including four appeal items) $125 for each appeal item over four, when submitted at the same time. Please note: these fees increase to $527 and $132, respectively, for appeals filed on or after July 1, 2021.
- Separate appeals with associated fees must be submitted for each individual building. Contact the Appeal Board Secretary at (503) 823-7335 where there are multiple buildings with identical appeal items.
- Subsequent appeal packages are charged at the full rate when submitted at a later time.
- Refer to Filing Your Appeal for information on payment processing.
How to pay appeal fees
Appeal fees must be paid by the time the appeal is heard by the Board. Results will not be posted until payment is received.
- Online: After you submit an appeal, we will email you a payment slip with a link to the online payment system. This system can accept both checks and credit cards. This is the preferred method of payment and will help avoid delays.
- Mail: Checks should be made payable to “Treasurer, City of Portland” and have the project address written on them. Note, paying by check may cause a delay in processing your application. Pay online if at all possible.
Get appeal results and records
Appeal decisions (Administrative and Board of Appeals) are usually posted the day following the appeal hearing on the BDS Appeals database, and are also available by calling the Appeal Board Secretary, Donna Ruark.
Search appeal records
- For Appeals after September 2003, search the Building Code Appeals database
- For Appeals prior to September 2003, search the historic Plumbing Code and Building Code Appeals