Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed legislation into law that establishes a State online electronic building permit review and inspection scheduling system...
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed legislation into law that establishes a State online electronic building permit review and inspection scheduling system. To help defray the costs of implementing the new system, New Jersey municipalities may impose and collect a construction permit surcharge fee for the first three years.
Key Aspects of New Electronic Permitting System
Assembly Bill 1145, now P.L.2021, c.70, requires the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to establish and implement the “Electronic Permit Processing Review System,” which will serve as a web-based system for the electronic submission of applications for construction permits, plans, and specifications pursuant to the State Uniform Construction Code Act. The electronic system will also provide a platform for the electronic review and approval of applications, the scheduling of inspections, and the exchange of information during the review process.
Specifically, the electronic system will offer a permit applicant:
- The ability to submit the materials necessary for application review;
- The ability to submit requests for on-site inspection of a project;
- Continuous, 24-hour accessibility for the submission of both scheduling requests, and the materials necessary for the permit application review; and
- The ability to exchange information between the applicant, the applicant’s professionals, and the department or enforcing agency during the review process.
Assembly Bill 1145 requires the DCA to promulgate rules and regulations to effectuate the implementation of the electronic system, including prescribing the form and format of applications submitted through the system. In addition, it allows the DCA to establish different submission requirements, including non-electronic submissions, for large, complicated, or otherwise unusual construction projects, so long as the system is designed to accept approximately 80 percent of application submissions electronically. The bill allows the department to waive requirements in other laws that require the submission of information in physical form to the extent the waiver is necessary to facilitate the submission of the information electronically.
The DCA must fully implement the electronic system within one year of enactment. The agency must also provide training opportunities for the employees of local enforcing agencies and private inspection agencies concerning the use of the electronic system.
Under the new law, municipalities and their departments may waive contrary form and format requirements imposed by statute or ordinance or by the rules of another department or agency for the submission of information in physical form to the extent the waiver is necessary to facilitate the submission of the information electronically. Additionally, municipalities may accept an electronic reproduction of a signature, stamp, seal, certification, or notarization as the equivalent of the original or may accept the substitution of identifying information for the signature, stamp, seal, certification, or notarization. However, they may not waive any other requirement. The bill further allows the commissioner the discretion to establish different submission requirements, including non-electronic submissions as necessary, for large, complicated, or otherwise unusual construction projects, so long as the system is designed to accept approximately 80 percent of application submissions electronically.
Assembly Bill 1145 further provides that a person exchanging information through the electronic system in a form and format acceptable to the department is not subject to any licensing sanction, civil penalty, fine, permit disapproval, or revocation or other sanction for failure to comply with a form or format requirement imposed by statute, ordinance, or rule for submission of the information in physical form.
The final version of the law authorizes local enforcing agencies to use the Electronic Permit Processing Review System developed by the DCA or elect to utilize a different system that provides an equivalent level of functionality as the system implemented by the DCA. Municipalities will be required, as part of the bid specification process, to ensure that a private code enforcing agency participates in whichever electronic system the municipality has elected to use.
Fees Can Be Imposed to Defray Startup Costs
Assembly Bill 1145 also authorizes local enforcing agencies to collect surcharge fees, subject to standards established by the DCA, in order to defray the start-up costs associated with developing and administering the electronic system by local enforcing agencies that have elected to utilize the electronic system implemented by the DCA. However, local enforcing agencies would only be permitted to collect surcharge fees during the three-year period following the implementation of the electronic system.
For more information about the electronic permitting law or the legal issues involved, we encourage you to contact a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Government Law Group at 201-896-4100.