How to Get a Building Permit in Memphis

Unless you’ve shown up in person, finding out how to get a construction permit is difficult. There are multiple agencies that share similar names, different jurisdictions, and generally the phones go unanswered.

Who do I talk to?

Memphis/Shelby County Construction Code Enforcement is the org that handles new buildings, additions, alterations, and demolition permits; they also handle signs, billboards, and zoning.

If you’re like me and live in a city landmark district, then you need to get a Certificate of Appropriateness for any exterior construction from the Memphis Landmarks Commission. The county will not issue a construction permit unless you have the proper documentation from Landmarks.

Certificate of Appropriateness? Huh?

Basically, Memphis Landmarks Division exists to ensure that the exterior of your building will be appropriate for the area. They care about the exterior, the setbacks, the materials chosen, and some of the techniques used. They also will need a list of your neighbors — Landmarks notifies them of your construction.

What do I need to do?

For the county, you’ll have to complete an application for a permit, have your plans reviewed, and pay a fee (plus a COA if needed!). The fee and necessary plans depend on the work you’re doing. In my case, I was building a shed “accessory building”. For this, all that I had to submit was a site plan (indicating the structure’s dimensions, setbacks from the edge of the property, and separation from the house). My fee was $29.