Getting a building permit in Jamaica

September 26, 2022
A construction worker hard at work on a building.
A construction worker hard at work on a building.

A building is any structure, temporary or permanent, that is placed or erected on a parcel of land or on another structure.

Any person who proposes to carry out building work is required, under law, to apply to the respective municipal corporation for a permit.

Anyone who is found to be building without a permit may be issued a stop notice and an enforcement notice demanding immediate cessation of works until the plan is submitted and approved, and a permit is issued.

The process of obtaining a building permit usually takes approximately eight weeks for residential single-family buildings. Persons are required to submit a completed application form to the local authority for consideration.

Along with the completed form, the applicant is required to complete a checklist form, as well as submit supporting documents. These include: plans or drawings, surveyor's diagram, proof of ownership (which can be certified copy of registered title, certified copy of sales agreement and the certificate of tax payment). If you are not the owner of the land, a letter of authorisation from the owner, stamped and signed by a justice of the peace, should be presented.

The applicant will be required to gather and prepare all the required supporting documents and mark them on the checklist form. Note that you will need to seek the assistance of a registered architect/engineer to help you with preparing some of the required documents, for example,, the plans or drawings.

Upon submitting the application form and supporting documents, you will be required to pay the relevant processing fee and obtain the payment receipt. Planning or building application fees are calculated based on the area, calculated in square metres, and the type of structure to be erected.

Kindly note that there is a separate site inspection fee.

Upon receiving your application, the local authority will conduct a due diligence investigation on the proposed site within 10 days of receipt of the application and prepare their report on the findings.

The local authority will circulate the application to the relevant reviewing agencies for their comments and recommendation. These agencies include: National Environment and Planning Agency and the National Works Agency.

The agencies will review the application and forward their written comments and recommendations to the local authority for review and compilation by its planning department.

The compiled report will be presented to the municipal corporation's planning committee, which meets monthly. This committee considers the report and decides if approval is to be given.

If approved, you will be notified through the proper communication channel and required to visit the local authority office to sign and collect the building permit. You will be required to commence construction within six months of the issuance of the permit, or it shall lapse.

Odane Marston is an attorney-at-law who specialises in conveyancing, administration, probate, recovery of possession, criminal litigation and divorce. He may be contacted via email or

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