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Q. I've heard that to get my renovation done, I'll need to hire an expediter. What is the expediter’s role? And how much can I expect to pay?
Also known as "code consultants," expediters act as liaisons between you and all the parties involved in getting a Department of Buildings permit for your renovation. If you're simply making cosmetic changes like painting and decorating, chances are you won't need a DOB permit, and therefore won't need an expediter.
But if you're taking on a bigger job that falls under the following categories--and your contractor can tell you for sure--you'll be filing with the DOB:
- Type I: Your renovation requires a major change to the certificate of occupancy, including changing the use of the building from commercial to residential, adding a bathroom or combining apartments
- Type II: Your renovation requires different trades such as plumbing, electrical and construction, even if there's no change to the certificate of occupancy
Yes, you'll pay more upfront--anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000, plus miscellaneous fees, per permit process--but hiring one is well worth it if you're a busy professional or facing a deadline (or both!), since you and your architect will likely save time and money in the long run. Expediters are experts: they're required to keep abreast of all the changes to code, and they also know which questions to ask, how to fill in the forms, and what you'll pay in fees.
Before you submit a permit application to the DOB, an expediter will review your reno plans to make sure they follow the city’s construction codes. Then, while the department is processing your application, they gather all the necessary checklists and signatures (from building owners, architects, and so on) and field the DOB's queries.
When it comes time to get the DOB to sign off on your project--essentially confirming that you followed code and that your plumbing, electrical, elevator and other work is legal--an expediter can help with the process, including managing the third-party inspections and additional documentation that are often required. But be sure to establish at the beginning of the job whether the expediter or your contractor will be handling the final paperwork and sign-offs. The last thing you want is outstanding "open items" from your reno that tie up an eventual sale of your apartment.
And, of course, using an expediter is no guarantee that your permit application process will be speedy. But it does increase the chance that you'll get the approval you need faster than if you navigated the bureaucracy solo. To find one, you can ask your contractor, architect or real estate broker for a referral.
Fraser Patterson is a former general contractor and the founder of Bolster, a NYC-based company that connects homeowners with contractors--and provides a guarantee from an insurer that renovations will be completed on time and on budget. For more information, visit http://www.getbolster.com. To ask a renovation question, click here.