Things to Do
Joseph E. Januzelli
Municipal Code Manager
Building & Code Enforcement
Norristown Municipal Building
235 East Airy Street
Norristown, PA 19401
- How to do business in Norristown Guide
- Use & Occupancy Form
- Contractor Registration Application
- Zoning process flowchart
- Norristown Building Permit Application Packet
- Property transfer permit
- Norristown design guide
- HARB Ordinance
- HARB District Map
- Construction fire permit application
- Operational fire permit application
- Shade tree permit application
- Signage Ordinance
- Recommended street trees
- Recommended street tree detail
- Land Development & Building Permit Process User's Guide
- Use Registration Form
- Tenent Information Guide English
- Tenent Information Guide Espanol
If you have a concern about a property in the Municipality please download the Code Investigation Formnorristown.org/userfiles/file/CodeComplaintForm.pdf and submit to the Codes Department either by mail or in person. Please download the form HERE.
The Norristown Code Enforcement Department has six primary functions:
· Building Construction. Whether you are a resident putting a new deck on your home or a major real estate developer building a new shopping center, in most cases the work you intend to do on your property must be reviewed and approved by the Norristown Code Enforcement Department prior to construction.
· Historical Architectural Review Board (HARB). Many homes and businesses in Norristown are located in one of two local historic districts. If your property is located in one of these districts, your must first get approval from the HARB prior to making most exterior improvements to your property. GET MORE INFO ON HARB HERE.
· Inspecting Buildings Prior to Occupancy. If you are relocating your business or some other use into an existing building in Norristown, it must be inspected and approved for occupancy before you move in. If you plan to sell your home or any building in Norristown, it must be inspected prior to settlement. Click here to learn more about the Property Transfer/Change of Tenant Permit process.
· Regulating Residential Rental Properties. Norristown has over 7,000 residential rental units. Each one must be annually licensed with the Norristown Code Enforcement Department.
a. For more information about Norristown’s annual rental license requirement.
b. “The Municipality revoked my rental license!” scroll down for more information about Norristown’s “Three Strikes” rule.
c. Click here for information on how Norristown zoning requirements may impact your ability to rent your property.
d. Click here for rules and regulations for landlords and tenants living in Norristown.
· Property Maintenance. The Norristown Code Enforcement Department is responsible for ensuring that every property in the municipality meets certain minimum property maintenance standards. If you have a concern about the condition of your property or a property in your neighborhood, please click here.
· Shade Tree Commission. Street trees in Norristown are regulated by the Norristown Shade Tree Commission. The Code Enforcement Department staff assists the commission by performing certain administrative functions. Click here for the Shade Tree application.
Most construction projects in Norristown must be reviewed and approved by the building inspector prior to the start of work. This process is commonly known as getting a “permit.” So before you start construction work on your home or business, contact the Norristown Code Enforcement Department at 610-270-0441.
The permit process is there to protect you and your neighbors. Norristown has adopted the Uniform Construction Code (UCC), a series of nationally recognized construction standards for everything from plumbing to electric work. Each code describes the proper – and safe – method to construct your project. The Norristown Code Enforcement Department’s job is to ensure that the work you or your contractor intends to do will conform to the UCC standards by reviewing and approving construction plans and inspecting the job at certain key points during the construction process. The permit process is an added layer of protection so you won’t become the victim of incompetent or unscrupulous contractors.
Here is how the process works:
· When you have a job you need done, for example installing a new bathroom or kitchen, find a reputable contractor (If you are not doing the work yourself) to provide a cost estimate and scope of work. We recommend that you seek multiple quotes. And make sure you ask for references. If you are doing the work yourself you will still need a permit.
· Once you have a scope of work and cost estimate, you are ready to apply for a construction permit. Either you or your contractor can make application by coming to the Norristown Code Enforcement Department. Staff will assist you in completing the paperwork and making sure everything is in order for the building inspector to review.
· Depending on the scope and complexity of the job, you may be required to submit architectural plans. It is a good idea to call ahead and talk to the building inspector to find out if a plan will be required for your project.
· Once the permit application is received it may take a week or more for the building inspector to review and approve depending on the complexity of the job and the number of permit applications that were submitted before yours. Simple jobs take less time and can be approved in a few days. Jobs that require plans usually take longer, and commercial projects take the most time. Don’t be surprised if the building inspector contacts you for more information or has identified problems with the design of the project that will need to be corrected. The building inspector can help guide you and your contractor to make sure the project is code compliant.
· Once the plans and permit application are reviewed and approved, you are ready to start your project. You will be required to call into the Norristown Code Enforcement Department at certain points during the construction process to schedule inspections of the work as it is being completed. Below is a list of required inspections that are typical of many jobs:
o Setback. Performed after the lot has been staked out to ensure that the structure is laid out within the building envelope.
o Footing. Performed after excavation, all forms are in place with all required rebar in place and properly supported, all debris removed from footing excavations, bottom of footings solid and capable of design support, depth pins at the edge of the footing, layout conforms to approved plan (no ‘jumps’ in footing at line of garage unless designed as such).
o Foundation Poured Concrete: Performed after forms are completed, all required rebar is in place. No debris in forms, all penetrations properly formed.
o CMU. Performed at the beginning to determine compliance with proper mortar head and bed joints.
o Backfill. Performed after foundation walls are complete or forms are stripped for proper height, anchor bolt placement, damp/water proofing, perimeter drain, parging, and insulation, per design of approved plan. Also confirm that first floor deck is in place or walls are properly braced or no more than 4’of backfill.
o Framing – Rough. Performed after entire structure is framed to determine compliance with code and design, anchor bolts/straps in place and compliant, jack studs, load bearing supports, proper fastening, braced wall lines, narrow wall bracing, roof tie-downs, foundation straps, sheathing - wall and roof, window and door installation per mfr’s instructions and fire blocking.
o Roofing. Performed at the same time as Rough Framing and includes underlayment, flashing, dripedge, roof and soffit venting, shingles, and vent boots.
o Plumbing – Rough. Performed at the same time as Rough Framing and includes laterals and services (sewer and water), water supply (test witness), drain-waste-vent (test witness), gas piping (test witness).
o Mechanical — Rough. Performed at the same time as Rough Framing and includes ductwork, return air, combustion air, appliance location and utility feeds.
o Electrical — Rough. (shall be done BEFORE rough framing inspection) Record name of Inspecting agency and date of rough inspection.
o Energy Conservation. Insulation, tyvek (building wrap), window/door flashing, NFRC ratings for all fenestration - record to confirm compliance.
o Drywall. Performed as the lay-up begins, to check fastening and fit; before tape and spackle.
o Final. Perform final review of all systems: plumbing, mechanical, electrical, check total building, basement insulation, Energy Conservation sticker in electric panel, and finish, confirm that grading (and landscaping) conforms to approved plan.
· In addition, you will be required to keep a set of approved plans on the job site for review by the building inspector when he or she comes to perform an inspection. The building inspector will need to compare what is being constructed to the approved plans to ensure that the work is being done properly. REMEMBER: It is your responsibility to call into the Norristown Code Enforcement Department to schedule inspections. If fail to call in for a required inspection, the next time the building inspector comes to the job site, you may be required to dismantle some of your work so the building inspector can adequately evaluate the job. This can unnecessarily delay the completion of your project.
· If you are constructing a new building, an addition, or doing significant improvements to an existing building, you will not be allowed to occupy the building until the final inspection has been performed and a Certificate of Occupancy is issued.
For more information on both the building inspection process, please review the Norristown’s User’s Guide to the Land Development and Building Permit Process.
Click here to view Norristown’s construction permit application. Click here.
Historical Architectural Review Board HARB
Norristown has two local historic districts that cover a large portion of Norristown. If your property is located in one of these two districts, your project will have to go before the Norristown Historical and Architectural Review Board (HARB) for review PRIOR to having a construction permit issued for exterior work only. If your project is limited to the interior of your building and does not affect the exterior of the building, a review by the HARB is not required.
The HARB’s job is to ensure that any changes to the built environment that can be seen from a public street are historically appropriate and consistent with the other buildings in the surrounding neighborhood. For example, a modern glass and steel building would not be appropriate in the context of a Victorian neighborhood. Nor would covering a brick building in stucco or siding be appropriate. The HARB will help guide you to ensure that the improvements you want to make to the exterior of your building fit in with the historic character of the district.
Here is how the process works:
· When you apply for a construction permit, staff at the Norristown Code Enforcement Department will review your project to determine whether a HARB review is required. It is a good idea to contact the department just as you are beginning to plan your project to ask if a HARB review will be needed. This way you can plan your project accordingly.
· If a HARB review is necessary, staff will assist you in completing the application and let you know what additional materials will be required to be submitted along with the application.
· You will be scheduled to appear before the HARB at their next available monthly meeting. Applications received less than 10 days prior to the next meeting will be scheduled for the following month.
· At the HARB meeting you will be provided time to present your project to the board. The meetings are usually informal. The board members may have questions and suggestions for you to consider. If the board approves your project, they will make a recommendation to the Norristown Municipal Council that you be issued a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) at the next Council meeting. Once the Council approves the COA, you can move forward with the construction permit process.
Inspecting Buildings Prior to Occupancy
How do you know if the commercial building you intend to lease is safe? Are you sure it has all the necessary improvements you need to conduct your business or other use? These are questions that only the Norristown Code Enforcement Department can answer. That is why before you occupy the property it must be inspected and a Property Transfer/Change of Tenant Permit issued.
If you are a landlord leasing commercial space in Norristown and have a lease pending with a new tenant, call the Norristown Code Enforcement Department to schedule an inspection prior to signing the lease. We will identify building and other code issues, specific to the tenant’s proposed use, that need to be addressed to ensure a safe and successful operation.
If you are a tenant, DO NOT sign the lease until you are certain that a Property Transfer/Change of Tenant Permit has been issued. This will protect both you and the landlord.
Zoning Approval Needed First
Finally, even before a Property Transfer/Change of Tenant inspection is done, you must make sure the business – or use – intended for the building is legal.
Norristown is divided into areas, or zones. Certain uses allowed in one zone, may not be allowed in another. For example, manufacturing is not allowed in a residential or commercial zone. Prior to applying for a Property Transfer/Change of Tenant, contact the Norristown Planning and Municipal Development Department. They will assist you in determining whether your use is allowed in the zone where you intend to locate your business activity.
Regulating Residential Rental Properties
There are over 7,000 residential rental units in Norristown. It is the job of the Norristown Code Enforcement Department to ensure that each unit is licensed and meets certain minimum property maintenance. standards.
Annual Rental License
Landlords must first have their properties licensed by the Municipality before a rental unit can be lawfully occupied; and the license must be renewed annually. If you are a first-time landlord, call the Norristown Code Enforcement Department at 610-270-0441 to find out what you need to know to operate a safe and legal residential rental unit.
As part of the licensing process, your property may be subject to inspection by the Norristown Code Enforcement Department to ensure that it meets certain minimum property maintenance standards. Norristown uses the 2006 International Property Maintenance Code, along with local amendments, as the basis for inspections. Copies of the code are available at the Code Enforcement Department offices for inspection between the hours of 8:30 and 3:30, Monday through Friday.
If your property is to be inspected, you will be given time to make arrangements with your tenants for a mutually convenient time for code officer to visit the property. Code officers will note on a standard form those conditions found during the inspection that you will need to correct in order to continue to legally operate your rental unit. You will be given time to make the necessary corrections. However, if you fail to make the required corrections, you will be issued a citation. Multiple citations will lead to your rental license being revoked, so please make every effort to cooperate with the code enforcement officers.
Three Strikes and You’re Out! – How You Could Lose Your License to Operate a Rental Unit
As a landlord it is your job to ensure that your tenants respect the rights of their neighbors to peace and good order. When Norristown police are repeatedly called to your property in response to disorderly conduct or other activities that disturb or threaten the neighborhood, landlords are expected to take action,
Strike One: You will receive a notice via first class mail from the Norristown Code Enforcement Department identifying the property where the disturbances are occurring.
Strike Two: If another instance of disorderly conduct occurs within two months of the first strike, you will be sent a second notice with instructions to develop a plan of action and provide this to the Norristown Code Enforcement Director. If you fail to develop a plan of action within the time limits specified, your rental license will be immediately revoked.
Strike Three: If a third instance of disorderly conduct occurs within two months of the second strike, you will be informed of the time and date of a hearing at which the revocation of your rental license will be considered.
In addition to disorderly conduct, you could lose your license to operate a rental unit because:
1. You failed to correct property maintenance violations after receiving multiple citations.
2. You are delinquent in tax, trash sewer and other municipal, school district or municipal authority charges.
Make Certain Your Rental has Zoning Approval
Depending on the location of the property, there are restrictions on the number of separate units that can be rented in a single building. For example, some areas – or zones – in Norristown, allow for only single-family homes. In these locations it is illegal to convert a single family home for two or more separate rental units. In addition, if the rental property has been vacant for an extended period, even if it was previously converted to a multi-unit apartment building it may no longer be legal to rent it out as a multi-unit.
Please contact the Norristown Planning and Municipal Development Department for more information on zoning at 610-270-0450.
Living in Norristown – Important Information for Residents and Landlords
If you are a new resident in Norristown, there are certain basic rules you need to know in order keep you and your family safe and better enjoy living in Norristown. As a landlord, your job is to make sure your tenants are aware of the rules and follow them.
Click here to view the Norristown tenant information guide.
Property Maintenance Code
The primary job of each Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) is to enforce the property maintenance code. Each day CEO’s respond to complaints and concerns communicated to the office by residents, businesses and property owners. Typical complaints include:
· High grass and weeds
· Peeling and chipped paint
· Excessive and scattered trash and debris
· Accumulations of ice and snow on sidewalks
Often CEO’s respond to these and other complaints by visiting the location, assessing the violation, and writing a notice of violation. Property owners are then given a certain amount of time to address the violation, depending on the extent of the issue. For simple problems, like high grass, the owner may be given only two or three days to get it cut. If the property needs to be painted, the owner may be given a month or more.
If the property owner fails to comply with the notice of violation, he or she will receive a citation. The property owner may elect to pay the fine or go to court and have the case heard before the district justice. Regardless, the hope is that the property owner will respond to the citation by addressing the violation. Sometimes they do, but unfortunately, they sometimes don’t. In more extreme situations, the CEO’s will write multiple citations for the same violation.
You can register a complaint or concern about a property in your neighborhood by clicking here.
Shade Tree Commission
The Norristown Shade Tree Commission regulates transplanting, heavy pruning and removing shade streets along the streets and sidewalks of Norristown, in addition to all public lands such as parks.
Before you remove or do heavy pruning to a shade tree located on your property along a street or sidewalk you must complete an application and submit it to the Norristown Code Enforcement Department for review and approval by the Shade Tree Commission. Click here to view the application.
In emergency situations that require the immediate removal of other treatment of a shade tree, the work may proceed provided you make application to the Code Enforcement Department within 24 hours following the work,
It is the mission of the Norristown Code Enforcement Department to enhance public safety by enforcing the Property Maintenance Ordinances of the Municipality of Norristown. The department seeks to proactively prevent unfit or unsafe living conditions by identifying, ordering remediation and abatement of code violations. This includes code violations that threaten the life, health, safety, and general welfare of the public.
It is the goal of our department to:
- Reduce blight. The Code/Building Department will initially try to work with owners to repair blighted properties. If those attempts are unsuccessful, the department will move the property to sheriff sale. In certain instances the Municipality will abate the condition or; if necessary, demolish the structure.
- Verify that properties do not pose a health threat to the surrounding community. The department enforces strict property maintenance codes. These codes include measures to prevent insect/rodent infestation as well as to insure that vegetation is maintained at acceptable heights. Also, trash and debris are not permitted to accumulate on properties.
- Verify that properties are structurally sound. The department does not tolerate deterioration that may potentially impact a building's structural integrity. When this occurs, the department will move to have the owner demolish the building. In the event an owner is unable or unwilling to do so, the Municipality will have the building demolished and the lot cleared of all debris.
- Verify that all construction is performed in accordance with the applicable local and state laws. The goal of the Code/Building Department is to provide safe housing for residents by ensuring that all new construction, existing building renovations and system installations are performed by qualified individuals in a professional manner.
- Maintain Transparency. The department leadership believes that the taxpayers should understand how the department works and what steps it is taking to move forward. These efforts include regular reports to Council as well as attending community meetings when necessary.
- And, last but certainly no least, treat each and every resident with whom we interact with courtesy and respect.