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City of Cambridge

Building Permits

Inspectional Services

Building Permit on a door

A building permit is required by Section 110.0 of the Massachusetts State Building Code (780 CMR). Anyone seeking to construct, alter, repair, or demolish a structure must first obtain a building permit. The building permit must be obtained before the start of any work and prominently posted at the job site.

Ordinary repairs, as defined in the Building Code, do not require a building permit.

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Tips and FAQs

When is a building permit required?

Anyone seeking to construct, alter, or demolish a structure or install a sign must first obtain a building permit from a building inspector at the Inspectional Services Department. The building permit must be obtained before the start of any work and must be prominently posted at the job site.

Who can be issued a building permit?

Building permits are issued to construction supervisors licensed by the City of Cambridge or the State of Massachusetts. The State license is only valid for work involving structures of less than 35,000 cu. Ft. As an exception to this requirement, building permits are also issued to homeowners doing work on one or two unit dwellings where they reside or intend to reside. It is noted that when homeowners are issued building permits, they may be liable for contractors working on their property and they are not eligible for protection under the provisions of the Homeowners Improvement Contractor Law. For these reasons, ISD encourages homeowners to have the building permit taken out by a properly licensed contractor.

What requirements must be met prior to applying for a building permit?

The work must be in compliance with the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance. Structures located in historic districts, neighborhood conservation districts, designated as landmarks, or subject to preservation restrictions require approval from the Cambridge Historical Commission. Also, structures over 50 years old cannot be demolished without Historical Commission approval. For the larger construction projects, approvals may also be required from the Community Development, Public Works, Traffic/Parking/Transportation, and Fire Departments.

What other permits would be required before a building permit could be issued?

If a new or expanded curb cut is required for the project, it is necessary to obtain City Council approval before the building permit can be issued. Application forms are available at the Inspectional Services and Public Works Departments for curb cuts.

When must work be started under the building permit?

Work must be started within six (6) months of the date the permit is issued. Once started, the work must be progressed continuously to completion. The City Noise Ordinance does not permit construction activities prior to 7:00 a.m. (9:00 a.m. on Saturdays and holidays) and after 6:00 p.m. Sunday work is not permitted.

What about access requirements for persons with disabilities?

The Massachusetts Architectural Access Board Regulations are part of the Building Code and are enforced by the Inspectional Services Department for new construction, alterations, and changes in use.

Do I need a building permit to install a shed?

If the shed is less than 120 square feet, a building permit is not required. However, one must comply with the provisions of the Zoning Ordinance for any size shed.

Last Updated: 3/7/2017 | Provide feedback on this page

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