Building Inspection and Permit Records

Property owners who do certain kinds of construction on a property that are regulated by city codes, such as electrical or plumbing work, have to obtain and file permits with a city department.

Cities also inspect properties for compliance with a city’s building codes, often in response to complaints filed by neighbors or other citizens about substandard conditions on a property.

These files are kept at a city building permits office or a city building inspections office (often the two offices are part of the same department).

Code enforcement of blighted conditions – such as abandoned cars or trash on a property – sometimes is handled by a separate department or by a branch of the police department.

The files are indexed by the addresses of the properties.

Thus the permits index will list all the permits taken out to do electrical, plumbing and other construction work on a piece of property.

The inspections or code violations index will list instances where complaints were filed alleging violations of city codes at a property, along with a summary of any investigation the building inspection office conducted into the complaints.

Stories About Building Inspections or Permits

Richmond sues own councilman over ‘junkyard’ – Contra Costa Times, 7/19/2013

Richmond councilman trying to waive fines against campaign worker – Contra Costa Times, 11/19/2013

What’s Available Online

Some city building permits or inspections departments put their indexes or records online. Check the websites for a city’s building or inspection departments to see what’s available online.

Here are links to building permits or inspections agencies or online permits databases for some San Francisco Bay Area cities:


Building Services Division – information on the agency that handles permits and code enforcement

Building Services records request – an online form for requesting building permits and code violations for a particular address (you will be charged for using this service – the fees are listed on the form)


Permit Records Search  – online database of building permits searchable by address

Building Division – information about the city department that handles construction and building permits

Code Enforcement Unit – information on the agency that handles code enforcement (such as blighted conditions at a property)

San Francisco

Permits, Complaints and Boiler Permit to Operate Inquiryonline database for searching permits and complaints by address

Department of Building Inspection – information about the agency that handles building permits and inspections.

About this Tutorial

This tutorial was originally written by Paul Grabowicz for students in his Computer Assisted Reporting class, and later modified for public use.

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