Getting an ePermit: The Perils of Online Submittals

Technology makes our lives simpler every day.

From your local haircut place to grocery stores and even McDonalds, there are websites and apps to get us in and out the door at an ever-faster pace.

When dealing with government permits, though, online processes get trickier. While a few taps from your phone can have a Big Mac and fries delivered right to your car window, one false keystroke at anything ending in .gov can lead to days, weeks, even months of delays for your most important projects.

So before you commit to an online permit process thinking that an e-permit will save your company time and money, make sure you are just as prepared as if you are going to wait in line at City Hall – because in many ways you really are.


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The number one piece of advice for anyone starting an online e-permitting process is commit to it. Once you start filling out your submittal online, there’s no getting on the phone or going into an office to clear things up.

Sometimes, there’s not even the opportunity to go back a page and fix an error. We’ve all seen that annoying error page pop up and have had to start over from the beginning.

Everything must be filled out correctly and promptly, because while many municipalities use standard industry software, many others do not, leaving a clunky and often uneven experience for users.

Pages time out. Uploads crash. And even one extra space between words can lead to the system to reject your permit.

Once you start online, you generally must stick with that method. Because third parties often handle computerized e-permit requests, you also can’t stop halfway through, give up and walk in to ask about an offline submittal. You can’t pay in person, and you can’t bring in any papers you may not have had on hand when the initial process began.

A completed permit application is required prior to the city beginning their administrative processes, but not all sites make it clear when things are truly complete. You might not even know you made an error until you follow up yourself.

Other common issues you may run into:

  • Online forms often ask for more information than the job really needs. After all, the e-permit process is built as a blanket solution for different needs.
  • You probably will be asked for sensitive tax or personal information based on the nature of your request.
  • Online forms can sometimes take hours to fill out because everything must be keyed in following the specific order the site dictates.
  • Whether you complete the submittal or not, you often also join a lead list that can be used or sold.
  • Mobile and browser-based experiences – even for the same forms on the same sites – can be vastly different.
  • You must be sure to break up your plans page by page according to local rules, which will often differ city by city and state by state.
  • Always ensure that file names follow protocol. Uploading the wrong file type or mishandling character rules will almost certainly take you to that dreaded error page.

With experience in all 48 continental U.S. states, Express Permits has the knowledge and expertise to help you through the permit submittal process, whether online or offline.

“We get lots of calls with people stuck halfway,” Express Permits founder and CEO Steve Todd said. “And then that brings its own set of problems. Often, that means new logins, requests getting cancelled and just having to start over. Contact us before you start to do it on your own. We have experience with the most used platforms and can navigate you through even the most difficult systems across the country.”

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