Disclaimer: Zoning Permit requirements are updated frequently. This information is up-to-date as of December 1, 2022.
What is a Zoning Permit to Change the Use of a Property?
In the city of Philadelphia, multiple types of zoning permits are needed for construction-related projects. This type of permit is needed to change the use of a property or part of a property. You may need this permit to increase or decrease the number of residential units on a property, change a commercial tenant space to a residential unit or new business, start a yoga studio, business office, or restaurant, or convert a warehouse into an art studio. It is not necessary to acquire one of these permits if the established use of a property remains the same, even if there is a new owner or tenant. You will be granted a permit as long as your proposal meets code requirements, if not, you will need a notable exception or variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment. However, zoning is only one part of the permitting and licensing process. It may be required for you to obtain construction permits, occupancy certificates, safety certifications, or licenses to operate legally or complete your project. Something to note is that properties in the floodplain may require special documents or a review meeting.
Who applies for change of use permits?
Those able to apply for this permit are property owners and their authorized agents. Authorized agents for this permit are listed on phila.gov as:
- Licensed expediters
- Business owners and Tenants, provided they have the owner’s permission
What are the permit application requirements to change the use of a property?
- Must include the proposed change and the current owner information
- If the property isn’t owned by a natural person or publicly-traded company, provide the name and mailing address of either each individual with more than 49% interest in ownership of the property or the two individuals with the largest interest.
- If the property was recently sold, a copy of the settlement sheer or deed must be submitted with the application.
- All permits must be applied for under the legal address established by the Office of Property Assessment (OPA).
- For tenants making an application: provide your executed lease agreement.
- Plans are typically not required if you are only requesting a change of use.
Other documents and related permits to change your property's use:
- Flood protection forms are needed for use changes within the floodplain
- A key plan may be requested by L&I for reference on multi-tenant or multi-building sites, these can be created for you by a licensed architect
- A Certificate of Occupancy is often needed for new business activity
- There is a separate permit that is required for signs
- A Building permit is required for projects that include renovation and can be obtained after you get zoning approval to change the use
How to apply for zoning permits and their cost:
You can apply for this type of permit online using eCLIPSE or by an in-person appointment at the Permit and License Center located at 1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd. The cost of the filing fees will depend on the proposed use of the property, a one-or-two-family dwelling will cost $25 and all other uses will cost $100. This is a non-refundable fee that will be applied toward the final cost of your permit. As some businesses may have more than one use, each permitted use of the property will result in a permit fee of $155. However, if the uses are related there is only one permit fee. An example would be a store that sells groceries and clothing. Additionally, no permit fees are required for a use registration permit for a family daycare or group daycare.
What do I do if my zoning permit application gets denied?
Permit applications will often get denied if additional information beyond what was provided is required. In the case that your project requires a variance, you will receive a Notice of Refusal. If your application receives a Notice of Refusal or a Notice of Referral, you can appeal to the Zoning Board of Adjustment. You can submit an appeal within 30 days from the date it was issued. Zoning permits to change the use of a property expire after six months if activity related to the approved use does not begin. To easily navigate this process, reach out to a local design professional who will be happy to help.