Better safe than sorry | People’s Defender

By Sherry Larson

People’s Defender

The adage, “I’d rather beg for forgiveness than ask for permission,” is not a good motto to live by if you run a business in Ohio and want to change your venue.

According to, “in Ohio, the basic rule is that the construction of all new building and work that structurally changes existing buildings through remodeling and additions will require a building permit. Most electrical, plumbing and mechanical work beyond basic repairs will also require a building permit.” Adams County does not have countywide building codes or zoning regulations and does not issue building permits. You will need to contact the local jurisdiction (Village or Township) in which you are working. If it is commercial, you will need to contact the State of Ohio to comply with the State regulations. Some unincorporated areas in Adams County would require floodplain permitting if the property is in the Flood Plain. has applications available for “Change of Occupancy.” “Section 202 OBC defines change of occupancy as ‘a change in the purpose or level of activity within a structure that involves a change in application of the requirements of the code’. Not only the change of use and occupancy classification but also a change in the level of activity while maintaining the same use group will constitute the ‘change of occupancy.’ A change in the level of activity may include increase of occupant loads or path of travel distance to exits, or changes in equipment, appliances, or systems, etc., that will raise the level of hazard based on life and/or fire risk.”

According to, businesses must follow “a plan submission and requirements to include:

Application form:

• Complete and submit the “Ohio Application for Building Plan Approval” (DIC 3016).

Plan requirements:

• Submit three (3) sets of construction drawings sealed by an Ohio registered design professional(s).

• For existing buildings without proposed alterations, drawings shall show, at a minimum, the existing and proposed use group designations, construction type, existing floor plan with new room names, occupant loads, required means of egress components, existing electrical panel and load information for the new use group, existing mechanical system and equipment, existing plumbing fixtures, and existing fire protection systems, etc.

• For existing buildings with alterations, in addition to the requirements in item #2 above, drawings shall also show alteration details for each scope of work in the building.

For existing buildings with alterations:

1. $275 processing fee for each trade applicable to the building.

2. A basic square footage fee times the actual square footage of floor area involved in the alteration for each scope of work applicable to the building,

3. The square footage fee shall be based on the minimum 100 square feet for each scope of work that does not require alteration,

4. $65 fee for certificate of use and occupancy,

5. $5.00 fee for Ohio Board of Building Standards per each scope of work


• Regardless if the application included alterations or not, the applicant must call for inspection for each trade applicable to the building. Inspectors shall verify that the existing and/or altered building components are in compliance with the approved plans and applicable building codes for the proposed new use group(s).

Special clarification:

• For change of occupancy in existing building, the property owner may wish to occupy the existing building for the new use group without any alterations. However, in view of many fire and life safety issues concerning the change of occupancy, the building official has determined that the existing building components shall be evaluated, verified, and drawings shall be prepared by an Ohio registered design professional. These plans shall be submitted to DIC for review and approval for all change of occupancy applications regardless if the new use occupancy is more or less hazardous than the existing use occupancy. Because of the complexity of verifying code compliance in existing buildings, the analysis and drawing preparation cannot be performed by the owner or their contractors. This information must be verified and submitted by an Ohio registered design professional in accordance with section 106.2.1 OBC.

Please note that once the plan review process is completed, the building official may determine that alterations are required to bring the existing building components up to the current code requirements. It is highly recommended to consult with the building official prior to purchasing or leasing a building or tenant space.”

The bottom line is to adhere to the wise saying, “Better safe – than sorry.” No one wants to add a new deck, patio, restroom, or other enhancement to their business only to have to tear it back down. Navigate the paperwork and ask questions. Do it right the first time, and save yourself time, money, effort, and frustration.

Better safe than sorry