Real Estate Corner: The Permitting Process Has Gone Awry

Ginger Jochem

Born and raised in Coral Gables. In the early 2000’s, Ginger and Jeannett Slesnick formed a real estate team and, as brokers, began Slesnick & Jochem.

I recently contracted to have my roof replaced, and so far it has been a long, drawn-out ordeal.

I made the first payment two months ago and because of the new permitting process in the City of Coral Gables, and the extra hoops the roofer has to go through because I live in a historic Village, the actual permit has not yet been issued.  The irony is that I thought it would take the roofer months to get the tiles, but it seems that the tiles have already arrived in Miami.

When I met with the roofer today, he said he anticipates another three months before he can get started.  As realtors, we know that there are people so frustrated with the process, that homeowners across town are doing major projects without pulling the necessary permits.  This has been happening for several years now.  Since there are a limited number of ” code enforcement ” people on the streets, these projects are going unnoticed, so the trend will most likely continue.  Coral Gables needs to address their lethargic process for the betterment of all. I am sure that the City had the best intentions when setting up the new automated system, but they must take notice that it is NOT WORKING and their reputation is at great risk.


15 thoughts on “Real Estate Corner: The Permitting Process Has Gone Awry

  1. As an architect/builder in Miami for the last 18 years I’ve worked with every municipality in Miami. The absolute WORST cities to pull permits in are Coral Gables & even worst is ‘City of Miami’. This is undisputed amongst professional Sub Contractors/Builders in the city. The process is intentionally designed to frustrate the applicant & extract the absolute most amount of $$$ possible through out the process. Instead of encouraging compliance, instead they (unmercifully) enforce compliance. If you plan on building or remodeling in Coral Gables or ‘City of Miami’ you will pay much more for ALL your services/trades if you can even find someone who will be willing to do the job. We no longer invest in the municipality’s mentioned above. Just for reference, A typical 3500 sq.ft-5000 sq ft. hi-end Flip will take us 4-6 months in other municipalities such as ‘incorporated Miami Dade’, Pincrest, Palmetto Bay or even South Miami. Where as in Coral Gables & ‘City of Miami’ it has taken us over 14 months for roughly 1800 sqft-2000 sqft. projects & its all due to the process/bureaucracy/corruption/incompitence of the city’s building department along with all other departments dealing with the construction permitting process.

  2. Coral Gables, Florida, is renowned for its serene ambiance with tree-lined streets and colonial houses. However, dealing with the city’s bureaucracy can be a nightmare. I submitted an application for a pool installation permit on January 13, 2021, and it wasn’t until today, February 16, 2024, that the permit was finally approved. It’s unbelievable that it took three years to complete this process. Now, I require a new room for my house, but the permit has been pending for months without approval. I’m frustrated with the city’s inefficiency. If you don’t have influential connections or a recognizable name like Bacardi, navigating through the city’s procedures can be incredibly challenging. It’s almost preferable to sell your house than to deal with the bureaucratic hurdles.

  3. Had I remotely imagined the ridiculousness of both the arbitrary board of architects committee as well as the revolting permits process, I would have NEVER invested in coral gables. Shame.

  4. It is very frustrating that Coral Gables makes law abiding citizens and contractors jump through hoops in order to obtain a permit, yet carries out zero enforcement of those that choose to game the system and do construction work without permits. It encourages homeowners to hire unlicensed contractors who are typically uninsured and don’t know the building code, and undercuts the businesses of licensed and insured contractors. This puts homeowners and their properties at physical and financial risk. The new online permitting system is very confusing and many of its functions don’t work. I applied for exterior paint permits in early November. They have still not been approved. The employees are doing their best, particularly assistant director of development services, Doug Ramirez. But they must work within a system that frankly does not work.

  5. I agree that the process is too long, complex, and confusing, although I’ve always found the staff helpful when I’m in at the building department. Perhaps they are understaffed. It seems they are trying to improve the process, but as a residential architect, I feel that I’m always having to explain to my clients why it’s taking so long. When I worked in Atlanta, my contractor could take plans to the city, and walk out with a permit a few hours later!

  6. I agree with Ali. If you read the instructions correctly and do exactly what the City wants, you won’t have any problems. The problem is with the contractors. There are rules here and as an educated population we should not look at the process of getting permits as a burden. I’ve done the roof and the a/c in my house and if anything, the City has protected me from being swindled from start to finish. I have also gotten permits for construction on a lot I own. Just follow the guidelines, because an inexperienced contractor will not.

  7. I have been reading all complaints.
    I went to City Hall to get a permit to change, replace floor and A/C unit, in my condo.

    I got my number, waited for my turn. I asked to what exactly I had to do.
    Got contractor to sign up with the City.

    Personnel at City Hall guided me as to exactly what I had to do.

    I got my permits in less than a week.

    I had patience and waited at City Hall almost 2 hours to be able to get all information I needed.
    Went back with all documentation, and all done.

    I see there is a lot of work going on at the building department. We should have patience and get informed.

    I know I will get lots of negative response by writing this, I thought about posting, and decided YES I will post.

  8. I am so glad to see this article because I went through a similar nightmare last year. As a homeowner, I lost my patience, decided not to do the work, and lost part of my deposit to my contractor–well this is not my main point.

    My main point is that I agree with the other comments, it was a nightmare (at that time it was semi-automated–apply online but drop off paperwork in person). I believe it’s a combination of the timing of the process being a badly designed automated system, the lack of personnel, and the incompetency of those still working there.

    First, one change I can propose for the system is that there should be a checklist in the system before a contractor or homeowner submits an application for the permit. This checklist avoids the back-and-forth that happens when applications are not complete; thus, avoiding going through the same personnel over and over again to review the re-submissions (freeing up the time of the short personnel still working there). The back-and-forth is also made worst because at every round there was something wrong or missing. For example, the first review yielded a discovery that A was missing. The contractor would then fix it and re-submit. The second round of reviews yielded that B was missing and more revisions were listed after fixing it the first time (same city staff asking for different items every time she reviewed the application and its many renditions). A CHECKLIST WOULD AVOID MUCH OF THE BACK-AND-FORTH (worth repeating). My contractor went two rounds and hired a “permit expediter” who couldn’t even expedite or anticipate the ridiculousness of the revisions (over and over and over). So, I gave up.

    If anyone from the city is reading this, that checklist will save a lot of time for homeowners, contractors, and CITY STAFF. New contractors will be bound to be lost otherwise. This is my complaint and a possible solution.

  9. We have gone through a level of supreme ridiculousness with Coral Gables Permitting. We are having our bathroom worked on. While going through the permitting process we had to wait weeks for them to go through all of their departments to confirm whether they needed to be involved. The last straw came when we were told we were waiting on PUBLIC WORKS to clear the ability to even get the permit. Public works for a bathroom???? Once that stupidity was cleared we were told it would take weeks to get the invoice to pay for the permit because they were so overworked. When we went personally to the offices they were chatting it up but did manage to process it. The idea of on line permitting is great but the management is not. Prices to do anything in the Gables are double because of the drama of permitting. It’s the right thing to do but it’s almost unbearable to do it.

  10. I agree that our building department is making its best effort with the resources they have, and I have never had a situation where they did not make the effort to assist me with getting my application processed, when I did it personally as an owner. There are areas that need some process improvement, but I personally saw that the failure point is that the inspectors are the same people reviewing applications, and knowing the business these individuals are very hard to recruit and retain. Additionally, our city offers a wonderful residential and commercial environment that attracts tremendous growth, which puts even more burden/stress on our building department with large projects. The permit process needs to be balanced, where higher fees need to be shifted to the large commercial and multi living developments, so that our city can fund and retain more inspectors/reviewers.

  11. my wife and I have lived and built homes all over the country. from here tonSesttle, boston to LA. the permitting process in Coral Gsbles is by far the WORST we’ve ever seen. uncoordinated, lacking transparency, capricious. one inspector will demand something, the next won’t even care and ridicule the ask. forget talking to anyone for guidance. the code is byzantine, the whole thing is a form of punishment for residents. the city employees running this mess act as if they’re responsible & accountable to no one.
    it’s a disgrace. we’re 3yrs into 2yr remodel job, no end in sight.

  12. The Coral Gables Woman’s Club is STILL waiting to install hurricane impact windows in our South Hall (the North Hall has them) and we started the entire process in late 2019, early 2020, so it has taken three (3) years. Timing was not the best with COVID, but still an arduous process. We have had two major hurricanes come close (Ian and Nicole) while waiting patiently and going through the long process. I understand we finally have received approval and we hope to have them installed soon. Maybe we won’t have to worry this coming hurricane season.

  13. We have an even worse situation trying to create small overhangs in our main door and in our bedroom patio. It is dragging for over a year.

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