who advises on apartment conversion planning?
August 13, 2020 10:06 AM   Subscribe

We're thinking of dividing our apartment into two. Other than going direct to the local planning department, who would we go to for advice on the planning applications?

The actual division of the apartment is pretty simple, there's just a doorway between the two halves, and I'd like to do as much of the work myself as possible though obviously some things require qualified professionals.
posted by anadem to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you be more specific about the legal and financial arrangements involved? I mean, for example: are you renting? Or are you the owners?
posted by aramaic at 10:49 AM on August 13, 2020

We're the owners, and will finance this ourselves aiming to minimize costs (by doing as much myself as possible) .. IF we decide to go ahead

I'm asking what kind of profession advises on the planning application process (vs the design, etc)
posted by anadem at 10:55 AM on August 13, 2020

I'm asking what kind of profession advises on the planning application process (vs the design, etc)

I believe that when my friends did this, they used the same architect who did the design to do the planning application process.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:59 AM on August 13, 2020

In my jurisdiction it would be an architect.
posted by plonkee at 12:04 PM on August 13, 2020

Were it me, in my area, I'd try to get a junior architect to make the drawings, probably a bit extra for "consultation" (feasibility analysis) and then pay them to handle the permitting as well. I'd then schedule the inspection(s) myself.

Now, also in my area this can be done largely without a professional -- the Planning Department has a consultation service that will pretty explicitly tell you what must be done, and in what order. From the sound of it, in your case (if you lived here, no idea about your jurisdiction) you could probably just get by with having someone draw up professional-grade drawings (complete with nice title blocks etc.), then go to the consultation session yourself, submit the corresponding permit forms yourself, do the work yourself, and then schedule the inspector yourself.

The Planning Department has a reputation for being prickly, but in my experience that's largely because they're so used to people fucking up in illegal/dangerous ways -- when I've approached them right at the outset of thinking about something (ie., obviously before even attempting to do anything at all) they were all super-helpful. They were also quite clearly gratified by the fact that I'd hired someone to do my as-built drawings (right scale, right symbols, clear use of elevation sections, etc. etc.)

If you particularly want to hire a professional for the planning/permit phase, there are many who can do it, the question is will any of them want to do it if they're not being given any of the other work in this. A General Contractor, for example, probably won't want to bother (it can't hurt to perhaps ask a few, but you'll probably get a lot of rejections or, worse, the "silent rejection" where they don't say no but never really get 'round to things) -- which is why I'd go with an architect.

All of this assumes no weird situations with condo boards, HOA requirements, or the like. All bets are off if they're involved.
posted by aramaic at 12:14 PM on August 13, 2020

An architect would normally design and advise on legal aspects as well as run any application through council, but your intended use will affect what is done to your house e.g. home office > B&B > rental > selling off etc, there would normally be different codes pertaining to those use cases for instance fire code level, shared services between units etc.

The further apart (legally) the units become would normally drive the need for higher qualification levels. A (non-junior) architect would also have wider knowledge of possibilities and loopholes (those last two is why people often engage me).

One of the things to consider is will you ever want to reverse this as some engineering, some planning too, could frustrate that possibility.
posted by unearthed at 12:32 PM on August 13, 2020

aramaic pretty much has it. Architects should have pertinent code knowledge, both building and municipal, or will at least have a good idea of how to research the code to get you the answers you need in an advisory capacity. When I worked in residential architecture I ran permits through the local building department all the time; it's a common thing for architects to do.

I'd think your hangups code-wise would be with the municipal code - either a limit on the number of units in the residential zone, a certain minimum square footage per unit (or square footage of certain elements that every unit must have - my town used to require a minimum separate outdoor space per unit), or minimum parking requirements per a certain unit size. If the building doesn't meet current municipal code, it'll probably be "grandfathered" in and allowed to exist as is, but modifying the intensity of usage of the building will force it to comply with current code.
posted by LionIndex at 12:51 PM on August 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

You say you’re the owner. Do you own the whole building or just the apartment? In a lot of jurisdictions you can’t just make such significant changes to an apartment without consideration of the overall ownership and governance structures of the building. So you may want to look at the legal documents that govern your rights and responsibilities as owner of the apartment with respect to the rest of the building before doing anything else. I own an apartment and I would not be allowed to split the apartment into two apartments.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:52 PM on August 13, 2020

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