Understanding the eCLIPSE Permitting Process

& how to do your part:

At Philly Kelsey & Co, we directly engage with all professionals on the job before submitting a construction permit application in Philadelphia County. Since January 2020, our firm has completed 120 permit projects and 23 active projects, defined as the time between filing and issuance (Source: Trello).

We see the same issue over and over – compliance, insurance, & other paperwork issues. Philly is now enforcing all subcontractors to be named for all commercial permits (including a residential triplex) – your call to action. More entities on the permit; more eCLIPSE issues; and unfortunately, more delays. January 2021, we implemented a substantial operational change in order to better reflect the pattern of change we experience approximately every 3 months.

Any professional named on the permit could be the culprit of permit delay. Taking 15 minutes to review these 3 easy curated steps will really help accelerate the permitting process.

Now, let’s get started!
You will feel confident about eCLIPSE because you’ve done your part.

Tax & License Compliance Is On Everyone

It is imperative to set permit process expectations and enforce all compliance responsibilities upfront with anyone hired and named on the permit. Better yet, share this article. Until now, we’ve reserved this type of direction exclusively for our clients. Now that we have enough data to support our findings, this URL can be shared as part of the hiring process.

If the contractor cannot do this independently, contractors can hire our firm to resolve most paperwork issues using this mobile-friendly form also found online at https://phillykelsey.co/get-started/. L&I will not issue a permit unless all measures of compliance have been met.

L&I uses specific terminology to indicate permit status that will appear on the eCLIPSE permit application for all named contractors. Stakeholders can track progress and search by permit number using L&I’s Permit Tracker. Definitions of what each status means can be found here.

What Causes Permit Delay?

Most delays occur when the application reaches the Permit Issuance Unit. “HOLDS EXIST” is often directly related to compliance actions that the contractor (i.e., Expediter, General Contractor, Design Professional, etc.) will need to take before L&I will issue the permit. We’ve seen delays at a minimum of 2 weeks, sometimes up to 7 weeks, and if not cleared by 60 days, L&I will cancel the application entirely unless an extension is requested by the primary applicant – and then after, restart.

Applicants are notified through eCLIPSE when any contractor is not tax compliant, but it does not specify the entity. 

Fortunately, you can eliminate most delays by obtaining a Tax Clearance Certificate upon hire and confirming that each contractor’s eCLIPSE account is functioning correctly – as per steps listed in this article.

Once the permit is filed, check that the owner can access the permit through eCLIPSE and obtain confirmation that all contractors have successfully verified their association to the pending permit.

Step-By-Step eCLIPSE Application Prep 101

Each step is color-coded to match the supporting graphic below. 

1) Double check that your “profile” is registered with a mailing address and selected as “primary.”

On the top navigation bar of the page, click the button that says “Profile.” Under the section heading “MY INFORMATION,” click the gray box containing the name and other contact information. Under the section heading “MAILING ADDRESSES,” if there isn’t an address, add one. The page will automatically refresh and the address will now appear. Click the little box next to this address to designate it as “primary.” Click “Save.”

2) Verify that your Philadelphia Tax Account is connected.

On the home screen, about mid-way down, there is a gray band of tabs. Click on the tab that says “My Activity Licenses.” If nothing is there, you must associate your Commercial Activity License by clicking the blue hyperlink on the home page “Associate an Activity License.” Be prepared to enter your 7-digit Philadelphia Tax ID # and either your SSN or EIN. If you are the sole member of an LLC, instructions are to use your SSN. If you are a sole member LLC that has been in business for several years in Philadelphia, email revenue@phila.gov to confirm that your SSN is on record as primary. You can check your account information by logging into Philadelphia’s Department of Revenue’s eWork portal. This extra step in advance of associating your CAL will avoid tax compliance issues related to incomplete paperwork and a whole lot of time!

3) Make sure that L&I has your trade license or professional registration on file.

Go back to the same gray band of tabs in Step 2. Click on the tab that says “Trade Licenses” or “My Registrations.” If you are a design professional or attorney, your license will be located under “My Registrations.” If nothing is there, click the blue hyperlink on the home page “Apply for a Registration.” If you are a contractor and have not registered locally with Philadelphia, find the bolded section Trade Licenses and click “Apply for a Trade License.” Even if you are a PA Registered Home Improvement Contractor, you are still required to register your license in order to be named on permits. eCLIPSE registration is mandatory. You will be prompted to upload each applicable license certification document and insurances which you can find online at Phila.gov/Li.

If you have something to add, we’d love to hear from you! Please email us at support@phillykelsey.co so we may update our content.

Make Safe Permit Application Procedure UPDATE

UPDATE 09-01-2021

What is normal anymore? At least we are back to filing MAKE SAFE permits in-person at MSB, which, as shown in the timeline of this article, is subject to change. The issued permit will be available for download through eCLIPSE. However, any stamped plans must be picked up in person at MSB. In addition, any L&I stamped documentation and plans are required for inspections. At Philly Kelsey & Co, we provide same-day courier services to any Philadelphia address, including the project site, which we will coordinate directly with the contractor performing the work.

You’ll need to schedule an appointment with MSB using their online QLess system here. Choose Permit With Plans > Apply for Permit With Plans > Select day & time

THE MAKE SAFE APPLICATION

Fill out and print this application (only 1 copy is needed).

In the field “Description of Work” write in “MAKE SAFE to [remediate or partially remediate] [violation number]”.

NOTE: More complex projects often require multiple MAKE SAFE permits for the purpose of insurance claims and multiple contracting companies being involved in the project. Remember to ask for the permit application number before turning it over at the permit desk. At Philly Kelsey & Co, we make scanned copies of this application using a phone app after the L&I personnel completes intake.

DOCUMENTS THAT GO WITH THE APPLICATION

You’ll need to provide:

  • 3 PRINTED copies of the plans (18″x24″)
  • 3 PRINTED copies of the PA-licensed engineer’s report (8.5″x11″)*
  • 3 PRINTED copies of each photo taken that encapsulates the area cited in violation for being structurally unsafe.

*L&I may waive the requirement of hiring an engineer for minor repairs, but the applicant must fully describe remediation in a formal letter (and yes, 3 PRINTED copies).

A licensed contractor must be named on the initial submission due to the prioritized 5-business day timetable for L&I to review and respond. DO NOT SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION until you have verified that the contractor you have hired is licensed and provides a valid Tax Clearance Certificate. It is easiest for the contractor to provide this themselves, since the contractor’s SSN may be required, but anyone can pull a Certificate with the required account numbers. You can also contact the Tax Clearance Unit directly following the instructions in this link.

We hope this information helps our community get through the permitting process. If you are unable to file this permit physically, you can hire Philly Kelsey & Co to do it for you!

UPDATE 03-24-2021

Just when we thought the process of applying for permits to repair UNSAFE and Imminently Dangerous (ID) buildings in Philadelphia County was smoothing out, L&I changed the process, again. “Make Safe” is a type of building permit application and the only permit type that can be filed when a building is cited as a public safety hazard whether it’s due to neglect, vandalism, or an act of God.

You won’t be able to file a permit for a property that has been tagged in violation for UNSAFE or ID conditions through eCLIPSE. You can open the application draft, but if the property address has been issued a violation by a field inspector for UNSAFE or ID, red text will appear on the screen and prevent you from continuing the application process. We can still file permits in-person at MSB by appointment but staff are aggressively pushing for this process to happen remotely.

MSB doesn’t want you in person and you can’t file using eCLIPSE.

HOW TO FILE A MAKE SAFE PERMIT MARCH 2021

Email Mercedes.P.Jones@phila.gov your (1) building permit application in PDF form, (2) the owner remediation plan or structural engineer report, and (3) the construction drawings that show existing and proposed. Gross Floor Area (GFA) must not change from what is deeded or previously legalized. For any GFA change, applicants are required to get zoning approval before L&I plans examiners will review the pending Make Safe Application. For example, the removal of a falling porch overhang will trigger a zoning permit requirement that must be issued within 60 days from the last Request For Information (RFI). Consistent with most L&I permitting protocol, any additional requirements not resolved within that timeframe will result in cancelation of the pending Make Safe permit application and all project documents previously submitted to L&I will be erased.

*Application protocol and requirements may vary from project to project. The established pattern for changes in filing procedure specific to Make Safe Permits is quarterly.

https://whyy.org/articles/efforts-to-tear-down-imminently-dangerous-buildings-get-a-2m-budget-lift/

UPDATE 10-20-2020

We are now at L&I by appointment 2-3 times a week consistently. L&I protocol for any building that is tagged UNSAFE or ID (Imminently Dangerous), a Make Safe Permit or Demolition Permit MUST be submitted in paper following standard submission procedures, meaning, 3 copies of the architectural plans. This permitting process is still clunky, but the information provided in this article will help you navigate the new protocols and identify a realistic construction start date once the Make Safe permit is issued.

Appointments are ALWAYS on time, so arrive early. You’ll have to show your ID upon entering the building, sign in, and then check-in again when you arrive at L&I Customer Care (where you would normally get a ticket).

The QLess Appointment Software will text you the station # and the Intake personnel will call your name.

After you leave L&I, here’s what to expect next as the Primary Applicant:

1-2 Days: Make Safe Permit application will appear on all eCLIPSE accounts.

2-10 Days: Applicant will receive an email from the examiner like any paper submission with an RFI letter. The letter will indicate two resubmission options: through eCLIPSE or in paper form.

DO NOT submit anything through the permit record on eCLIPSE. Keep all additional items in paper form, meaning, you must schedule an appointment to bring the RFI package to the “Drop Box” at MSB. Log your drop off time as normal on the sign-in sheet, and take a photo to confirm time of resubmission. Application packages do get lost, so this is your EZ Pass ticket to get your case escalated if the examiner doesn’t respond within 10 days.

If you decide to submit the additional documents or revised plans through eCLIPSE, be prepared to resubmit all forms on eCLIPSE as well. It’s one of the other – you cannot have documents split between paper and digital copies. Therefore, if you accidentally start using eCLIPSE mid-way through, expect the process to take 3-4x longer to reach permit approval verses submitting in paper form the whole way through.


UPDATE 07-28-2020

For a 3 week period starting early July, we were getting appointments 3x week using a Calendly© scheduler.

https://calendly.com/permitsandlicenses

Hindsight 20/20, this was a test. Today, outside of Make Safe Appointments, they are no longer offering in-person appointments for General Construction Permits. The most concrete direction we have obtained is to schedule an appointment with the L&I department supervisor. If you have an “in” take it. There are no other options at this time unless you hire our firm to submit on your behalf… or wait.


06-30-2020

Hot off the press! This information isn’t posted anywhere so listen up. Make Safe appointments WERE being handled out of the North Central District at 1512-14 Cecil B. Moore Ave. But as of… today… The former employee handling appointments is no longer scheduling them and all MAKE SAFE permit applications are being handled out of MSB.

As of June 22nd, employees returned to MSB on a staggered schedule.

On June 29th, MSB opened to the General Public BY APPT ONLY.

As of June 30th, the original appointment form posted across city websites has been taken down. We submitted a request last week using the form and haven’t received a single response. And as of now…. looks like there is no way to make an appointment.

Make Safe permits are for buildings that inspectors have deemed dangerous and have been cited as such. As of right now, there is no way for anyone to legalize the construction to ensure these dangerous properties don’t collapse on neighboring buildings and any person walking by structurally unsafe properties.

If you notice a building falling down, please take a picture immediately and submit as PUBLIC to Philly 311 using the website or mobile app. The city’s Master Demolition Program may or may not be operating but as citizens, we at least have a place to check sightings so we may avoid it as necessary.

Website: https://www.phila.gov/311/form/Pages/default.aspx

Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details…

iOS: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/philly-311/id533292779

We’ll update as soon as we have info on how the city wants us to proceed with filing a Make Safe permit.