About DOB Permits?


Apartment renovations generally require two separate approvals.  

First, the building’s management must approve the alteration and grant permission for work to begin. 

Second, if required, the NYC Department of Buildings (the “DOB”) must also approve the work and grant the construction permit.

Any partition, pressurized wall, or floor to ceiling divider — no matter how temporary — requires NYC DOB approval.  

A careful broker will not casually mention — or confirm — that a wall can be installed in an apartment without issue.  

An architect will have to certify that the new proposed configuration complies with all applicable codes. For example, an apartment must have at least one room of at least 150 square feet. So partitioning a living room to make a bedroom (resulting in two rooms of less than 150 square feet) will not work — unless another unmodified room in the apartment remains above the threshold.

Most buildings have a formal approval process. The apartment owner’s engineer/architect will need to provide plans for the proposed work.

The owner must also agree to comply with building work rules, pay the applicable fees, use licensed, insured contractors, and perform the construction with minimal inconvenience to other unit owners.  

The owner may also need to provide evidence that the NYC Department of Buildings has approved the work and granted a construction permit.

For just about all apartment renovations, you will need an ALT2 permit. However, there are other permits to consider: 

  • ALT1 — major construction that will change use, egress, or occupancy, e.g., commercial to residential
  • ALT2 — construction that does not change use, egress, or occupancy and is narrower in scope but requires several types of work e.g., plumbing, electrical, installing a new bathroom and electrical outlets, rerouting a gas pipe, and moving a load-bearing wall
  • ALT3 — minor work not affecting use, egress, or occupancy that involves only one type of work, e.g., install a construction fence. 

Note: The DOB does not require a permit for painting, plastering, installing millwork, and installing flooring.  

However, the building must still approve the work. Other than painting, it cannot be performed by a non-licensed contractor. 

Once the work is complete, the DOB passes inspection. Then a Letter of Completion (or, for an ALT1, a new Certificate of Occupancy) is issued. 

This can be obtained in one of two ways:

1) Full DOB review filing

A DOB examiner reviews and approves your architectural plans based on the current building code. If you don’t meet the code, your plans are sent back for revision.

Assuming everything is in order and you have plans stamped by a licensed NY architect, it will take about 6 weeks to obtain a permit.

2) Professional Certification (known as a “Same Day,” “Pro Cert,” or “Self Cert” filing

Most buildings don’t allow Pro Cert filings because the architect certifies that everything adheres to the current code; if they are wrong, the DOB will force the architect to remedy (fix) it. This creates a giant headache for everyone.

First, check with your building management. Assuming you can do a same-day filing, here’s what’s involved:

  • Plans stamped by a NY licensed architect
  • Formatted for a same day filing (6-page set)
  • Tenant protection plan
  • Architectural final inspection
  • PW1, POC1, PW3, TR1, and PW2 documents signed and notarized in triplicate by you, the building management, and your contractor.

Including drawing everything up and filing, this should take about 12 business days. The permit is issued the same day.

It’s important to understand the rules surrounding the construction of new walls within an NYC apartment. The long-existing code addressing this issue was, for the most part, ignored for many years as renters and owners regularly installed temporary walls without prior approval. But those days are over.  

The landscape changed dramatically when an NYC prosecutor filed manslaughter charges against the owner and tenants in a Bronx apartment. A fire had caused the deaths of two firefighters who became disoriented because of the installation of non-compliant walls.