Building permits have a bad reputation for being confusing and time-consuming, and often, that reputation is valid. But it’s not the permit itself that is the problem, it’s the permit process from start to finish.

A poor permit process costs local governments potential revenue, scarce time and valuable resources. It can also deter developers from wanting to build in an area, create resentment and blame from applicants toward building departments when their permit is slow to be issued, and contribute to the nationwide housing crisis as homes are not built fast enough to meet demand.

The answer? Local governments need to simplify the permit process by moving it online. Online permitting software offers a simplified permit process that empowers local governments and improves local communities with:

24/7/365 access to the entire permit process
Paper-based and on-premises systems define where and when local government staff and applicants can do their work. When building departments adopt online permitting software, department staff, builders, engineers, third-party agencies, applicants and all other involved parties can work from anywhere and at any time without being confined to the government office or certain office hours.

Department staff can also conduct on-site mobile inspections, communicate within the solution with all involved parties, and accept, review, and issue permits from any mobile device. This increased flexibility reduces printing costs and time spent at the front counter, makes communication almost instantaneous, and allows building departments to share information more easily with other departments.

As a result, local governments are empowered with efficiency and local communities are improved with remote and easy access to their permits.

Complete permit applications
Incomplete permit applications trouble many local government building departments because for most, no application is ever finished upon submission. Department staff then need to spend countless hours working with applicants to receive a complete permit application on their desk—a step that should come first, but often comes last.

Online permitting software forces applicants to submit a complete permit application with mandatory fields they must fill, attachments they must add, and specific requirements they must meet before they can click submit.

When local governments only receive complete permit applications, department staff have steps they need to take to conclude the permit process, and as a result, can receive, review and issue more permits. This brings in more money for local governments and streamlines the permit process for local communities.

From December 2020 to mid-April 2021, Boone County in Illinois issued 140 permits for a total of $68,000 in permit fees. The Building and Zoning Department simplified its permit process by moving it online in mid-April, and as of the first week of October, increased its number of issued permits by 213.6 percent with 439 permits for a total of $140,000, an increase of 105.9 percent from its previous year’s permit value.

Faster permit issuance
The time it takes for a permit to be issued slows down and becomes unpredictable when the permit process is too complicated. On the other hand, when local governments move the permit process online, this timeline gets simpler and faster. An online permit process ensures permits are issued at least 50 percent faster than paper-based or on-premises systems with more efficiency, transparency, and easier permit access.

The Municipality of Middlesex Centre (Ontario) in its first full year using online permitting software, increased its number of new dwellings by 62.3 percent and increased its annual permit value by 41.6 percent from $101 million to $143 million.

So not only does a faster permit issuance timeline make local communities happier and allow for homes and projects to be built sooner to combat the nationwide housing crisis, but it also means local governments can issue more permits every year to realize additional income.

Easy-to-follow communication and collaboration
A simplified permit process includes easy-to-follow communication and collaboration, and that means bringing all communication online to say goodbye to endless emails and phone calls.

Online permitting software allows all communication to be in one place, enables users to send group and direct messages, and brings all involved parties online so they can work together in a collaborative environment. Some solutions offer even more transparency with automatic email notifications when permit or inspection status changes to keep all involved parties in the know.

Communication that is always in the right context in real-time empowers governments to invest time back into other valuable tasks and saves headaches for local communities trying to do their end of the permit process. It always helps send a message to potential developers that a local government that truly involves its building and local community is a place they want to build.

Learn from other local governments and communities
Hundreds of local governments of all sizes currently use online permitting software to achieve a simplified permit process, so learn from them. Talk to governments around your area, connect with builders who have ditched paper for an iPad or inspectors who conduct inspections in their field from their phone, and speak with homeowners who have built a new deck after applying for a permit from their couch.

Simplicity and efficiency go hand in hand, so empower your local government and improve your local community with a simplified, online permit process.

Jarkko Turtiainen is Cloudpermit’s senior vice president, North America, and has more than 15 years of business and leadership experience. His e-permitting and global business expertise have helped establish Cloudpermit as the world’s leading e-permitting software for local government building departments.

Originally published in American City and County here.