The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) has proposed amendments to the State’s Uniform Construction Code (Building Code) to broaden the types of construction work classified as minor work for purposes of permitting and inspections. The intent of the rule is to reduce the time and expense of acquiring permits and ordering inspections for space renovations and alterations associated with a change of tenancy in commercial buildings. The proposed rule was published in the September 19, 2011 New Jersey Register and is available online at http://www.state.nj.us/dca/divisions/codes/codreg/pdf_rule_proposals/prn2011_204.pdf.

Under the current rules, routine renovation and alteration work normally undertaken in connection with space occupancy changes cannot commence until a permit is granted or continue until progress inspections are performed. This procedure is fraught with delays, which can often lead to the termination of proposed lease arrangements between building owners and prospective tenants. Under the amendments, renovation work of the kind usually performed during a change of tenancy in Use Group M (retail), Use Group B (office), Use Group S (warehouse) or Use Group F (industrial) space would be categorized as “minor work” under the Building Code and thus could proceed without waiting for the issuance of a permit and without waiting for progress of work inspections by the municipality. The rule proposal would also allow alteration work in these spaces to be considered as minor work. Since alteration work may involve the construction of walls; the extension or modification of electrical, plumbing or HVAC systems; and other changes, the proposed rule would require that sketch plans and specifications of the work be prepared and notifications be made to the local construction official for progress of work inspections. However, most importantly for building owners and their contractors, such work would be allowed to proceed in the space regardless of whether an inspection has been performed by the municipality.

By removing regulatory barriers in the Building Code, the proposed DCA rule amendments are expected to facilitate and expedite the process for a change of tenancy in commercial spaces. This should benefit both building owners and prospective occupants alike.

Written comments on the proposed rules may be submitted to Amy Fenwick Frank, DCA, Divisions of Codes and Standards, P.O. Box 802, Trenton, NJ 08625-0802, fax number 609.633.6729, e-mail: afrank@dca.state.nj.us.