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Major Residential Alteration and Addition Permit Requirements

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Learn about major residential alteration and addition permits in Portland and apply online. Get forms for major alterations removing 50% or more of exterior walls above the foundation or major additions adding more than 500 square feet of space. MRAA permits have notification and delay requirements.
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The City of Portland welcomes the opportunity to work with you on your major residential alteration and addition (MRAA) project. Learn more about what's required for a major residential alteration and addition. You can also schedule an appointment to discuss your project. 

Learn more about the Major Residential Alteration and Addition (Portland City Code Section 24.55.210) permit is and what notification and delay requirements apply. Find information on definitions and links to the Major Residential Alteration and Addition Notification Form that must be submitted prior to permit issuance. You may also be interested in information about demolition permits.

The Major Alteration and Addition Ordinance

On June 13, 2018, the Portland City Council amended Section 24.55.210, “Major Residential Alterations and Additions,” of Title 24, Portland’s Building Regulations. Our definitions of major residential alteration and major residential addition (MRAA) follow the 2018 amendments. In addition, major alteration projects that use heavy machinery to demolish walls must implement dust suppression techniques described in Section 24.55.205.C.3. 

When major alteration and addition requirements apply 

The requirements apply to all residential structures that have a residential Comprehensive Map Designation. They do not apply to properties, including multifamily commercial properties or residences, in non-residential comprehensive plan map areas. There are some types of residential structures and projects that are exempt from the MRAA ordinance:

  • Non-livable accessory structures, such as detached garages, are exempt from the major alteration/addition regulations. If the building under remodel is considered an accessory structure, the project will not be designated as a major alteration or addition even if it is converted to habitable space as a result of the remodel. NOTE: an attached garage is considered part of the main house. If you are altering or adding to a house that has an attached garage, the garage will be treated as part of the house in determining whether the work is a major alteration or addition and whether the MRAA ordinance requirements apply. 
  • Conversions that don’t remove exterior walls or expand the structure’s footprint or envelope. Existing permitted areas such as unfinished basements and attics that are converted to livable space without removing exterior walls or expanding the structure’s footprint or envelope, are not considered major alterations or additions even if the project adds new interior living space in excess of 500 square feet.
  • Detached accessory dwelling units (ADUs). The ordinance does not apply to new construction of detached ADUs.

You need a building permit for a major residential alteration and addition 

You need a building permit to do a major residential alteration and addition. You'll likely need trade permits (electrical, mechanical and plumbing) as well. 

What qualifies as a major alteration or addition

The ordinance defines the following as a major alteration:

  • Removing 50% or more of the exterior walls above the foundation. For purposes of determining whether 50% or more of the exterior wall has been removed, Bureau of Development Services (BDS) will include any portion of any exterior wall above the foundation that remains, calculated in linear feet by story.The ordinance defines the following as a major addition:
  • Adding more than 500 square feet of new interior space and expanding the structure’s footprint or envelope.The new interior space does not include areas of existing space within the building envelope. To qualify as a major addition, the project must both increase the interior space and expand the footprint or envelope.

For more information about what qualifies as a MRAA

Get more information to find out what qualifies as a major alteration or addition including definitions, examples, instructions and more: 

Download the Word document and save a copy to use this Life Safety completeness checklist:

Where notification and delay regulations apply (zoning maps)

The Major Residential Alteration and Addition delay applies to sites with residential structures in areas with a residential Comprehensive Plan Map designation. Find zoning regulations and zoning maps.

The regulations only apply to applications for major alterations and additions of residential structures. They do not apply to accessory structures such as garages or other outbuildings.

Delay requirements for major alterations and additions

  • 35-Day Delay: Notifications to Recognized Organizations and neighbors must be sent 35 days prior to the date when the permit is issued. Notification can take place prior to permit application. In addition, you can have your plans reviewed and approved during that 35-day notification period. The permit will not be issued prior to the end of 35 days. Work on the project cannot start until the permit is issued.
  • No delay extension: Unlike demolition permits, interested persons can’t appeal to have the delay time extended on a major alteration/addition. 

Dust suppression requirements

If heavy machinery is used in a major alteration project, then the dust suppression measures described in Portland City Code Section 25.55.205(C)(3) must be implemented during the mechanical demolition activities as that term is defined in Portland City Code Section 24.55.150(H). The dust suppression provisions do not apply to accessory structures such as garages or other outbuildings.

Asbestos and lead-based paint in remodel projects

Please note that certain State and federal regulations apply to asbestos and lead-based paint in residential remodel projects. The Toxic Substances Control Act and 40 CFR 745 regulate lead-based paint for residential property renovations, repairs and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in pre-1978 homes and requires that any such work be performed by a Certified Renovator working for a Certified Firm and that work practice standards be implemented to prevent lead contamination. OAR 340-248 governs asbestos abatement, handling, and disposal requirements in residential projects, including remodels.

Asbestos-containing waste must be disposed of in accordance with these laws and regulations. In addition, asbestos and lead based paint are toxic substances and potential airborne contaminants that need to be properly contained to protect the safety of the workers on your job site. As such, OSHA has additional, and often more strict, regulations governing safety for employees working with asbestos and lead-based paint on residential remodel projects. The State of Oregon requires that, if your home has lead-based paint or asbestos, it must be remediated for the safety of your workers on site and the surrounding neighbors. Please familiarize yourself with the requirements cited above.

If you have questions regarding asbestos requirements for surveying, removal or disposal, please contact the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) at: 503-229-5982 or contact them by email. If you have questions regarding lead-based paint requirements for renovation, repair or painting projects done by a contractor, please contact the Oregon Construction Contractors Board (CCB) at: 503-934-2229 or visit the CCB website. If you have questions regarding lead-based paint requirements for renovation, repair or painting projects not done by a contractor (e.g., a homeowner, property owner doing your own work, rental agency, etc.), please contact the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) at: 971-673-0440 or visit their website. For worker safety issues regarding either asbestos or lead-based paint, please contact OSHA at: 503-229-5910 or visit the OR OSHA website.

Major alterations and additions application forms 

Application requirements depend on the work you are doing:

Often a MRAA means you are making major changes to your home that can combine types of work. Review the submittal requirements for your project type carefully.

Apply for a major alterations and additions permit

You can submit your permit application request online using Development Hub PDXRead step-by-step instructions for submitting a permit application request online or in person. 

For most projects, electronic plans are submitted through the Single PDF process. Large projects such as commercial new construction are submitted though PDX E-plans and ProjectDox.

If you need to submit paper plans, you can set up an appointment to pick up plans or drop off plans in person. Or, please call us and we will work with you. 

Notification requirements for major alterations and additions 

Major alterations and additions projects have more site and notification requirements than other types of permits. If a residential project falls within the criteria above, notice is required to be sent by the property owner applying for the permit or the owner’s representative as follows:

  1. Emailed notice: At least 35 days before a building permit is issued for a major residential alteration or addition, the applicant for the permit must email a letter (Template notice below) to the recognized organization(s)* whose boundaries include the site (View Planning maps) that contains at least the following information:
  2. Posted notice:At least 35 days before the building permit is issued, the applicant must post door hangers provided by BDS (below) on the properties abutting or across the street from the site of the project. The notice must contain all of the following information:
  • Notice that an application for a major alteration or addition has been or will be submitted to the Bureau of Development Services;
  • The permit application number, if an application has already been filed;
  • The approximate date the construction activity will commence;
  • Contact information of the agencies that regulate asbestos and lead-based paint; and Contact information for the applicant. 

We have created a Major Alteration and Addition Neighborhood Notice Certification form to comply with these requirements: 

*Recognized organization includes neighborhood coalitions and neighborhood associations recognized by the Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement.

Provide door hangers to all properties abutting or across the street from your site. This includes residential and/or commercial properties. Using www.portlandmaps.com can provide a good visual reference for properties within that area.
Provide door hangers to all properties abutting or across the street from your site. This includes residential and/or commercial properties. Using www.portlandmaps.com can provide a good visual reference for properties within that area.

Triggering a change to major alteration or addition or demolition status after we issue a permit

Project changing from a minor to a major alteration or addition: Changes to the scope of work after a permit has been issued require either a permit revision or a new permit, depending on the type of project change. Table 1 specifies the permitting requirements when the project changes to a major alteration or addition after the original permit has been issued. Though the permit type (alteration or addition) may not change, the requirements for MRAA permits will be triggered when changing from a minor alteration or addition to a major alteration or addition.

Table 1: Permitting requirements for projects that change from a minor to a major alteration or addition

Type of changeExample of changeRequired permit change
Changes to scope of work don’t change the project type
  • Minor Alteration to Major Alteration
  • Minor Addition to Major Addition
Applicant submits plan changes as a revision to the existing permit (If the project is in the FIR program, check with your FIR Inspector)
Changes to scope of work do change the project type
  • Minor Alteration to Major Alteration
  • Minor Addition to Major Addition
Applicant must submit a new permit application (If the project is in the FIR program, applicant must check with their FIR Inspector)

Project changing from a major alteration or addition to a demolition: A change in the scope of work may shift the project from a major alteration or addition to a demolition. If your project changes from a major alteration or addition to a demolition, you’ll need to stop work on the project, obtain a demolition permit, and meet the requirements for demolition projects.

Table 2: Permitting projects that change from major alteration/addition to demolition

Type of changeRequired permit change
Project permit not issued under the FIR programApplicant must submit a new permit application under the BDS new single family permit process
Project permit is issued under the FIR programProject leaves the FIR program and applicant must submit a new permit application under BDS new single family permit process

If a Building Inspector determines that modifications to the project scope have changed a project to a major alteration or addition, or to a demolition, without the required permit revision or new permit, the Inspector will issue a Stop Work Order for the project until the changes have been approved under the proper permit.

Notification is the best prevention! Make the required notifications at least 35 days in advance of starting work if there is ANY possibility that your project could become a major alteration or addition. This will prevent your project from being delayed and your neighbors will appreciate the courtesy, even if the project doesn’t change status.