Permit process

Ok, after getting my permits I have decided to write up a walkthrough for other people if they are ever as crazy as me to undertake a project like this. There are five main steps:
1. Get complete plans drawn up for the property.

2. Get permission from Patrimonio Monumental
3. Get permission from Patrimonio Cultural
4. Get permission from Ayuntamiento
5. Submit permits and plans to Obras Publicas

It seems simple – just 5 easy steps you might be thinking – but then you have to remember that you are in the Dominican Republic. Now before I go through the steps I just want to say that all the advice I received from locals was just to close the doors and do the work and skip the permit process. I have to say I was tempted but due to the size of the project I was to undertake I did not think I would get away with it. Plus I wanted to try and do everything by the book, I didn’t want people coming to me for bribes and payoffs every few weeks.
Now its well known that in the Dominican Republic its all about who you know or how much money you have when it comes to getting things done. The one refreshing surprise was that during the whole process not one person asked for money to expedite the process. I have to say I wish they did as I would have paid it to get them earlier but looking back at things I am glad the way it worked out.

Step 1 – Plans
So it all started when I purchased the property at the end of September 2012. The first thing that I needed to do was to get plans drawn up. Easy you may think but one thing from I have learnt from this whole process is that architects and engineers here are expensive. My rule is from now on is that if some turns up in a new pick up truck then I say thank you very much but I don’t want a quote from them!
I am guessing its because I am not from here that people think I am rich… and stupid… I have to admit – I am neither. It gets old very fast especially when getting quotes but I have to say you learn from experience and I realize how naive I was at the start of this project.
My first quote was for $20,000 USD, yep not pesos dollars… I almost had a heart attack as I could not understand how it could be that expensive to draw up plans. I mean it is a big ish property with 450 sqm of land and around 600 of construction but there was no way I could afford that.

So I went down a cheaper route and a couple of my wife’s friends were newly qualified architects and did it for a 10th of the price. Apart from the roof and floors we were keeping everything pretty much the same structural wise so it took them 10 days to draw them all up. We got the architectural, structural, elevational, plumbing and electrical drawn up along with the photos of the property and location. You do not actually need the electrical and plumbing plans for the permits but we got them just in case.
So by the time we actually got the plans drew up it was getting close to December – so almost two months past by which was a delay that I did not plan for. But at least we had all the plans. We had two sets of plans printed.

Total time taken: 2 months
Cost: Around $2500 USD with printing

Step 2 – Patrimonio Monumental

Now I have to say this was the easiest step of the process and by far the quickest. I have nothing but praise for them. They are located on Calle Hostos in the Colonial Zone and I had spoken to them on numerous occasions even before I bought the property. The first thing you need to do is go and and ask for an information sheet, it is important as you need to get the plans printed in a specific size and colored folders. I had heard horror stories that people have waited for over a year for permits at this stage so I wanted to be as prepared as possible.
The first thing you need to do is ask them to visit the house and complete a survey. This is free and was completed in a few days after requesting.
We handed the plans in with a cover letter to the director and they said they would be in touch. Five days later I received a call… I was thinking what did I forget to hand in… but no, I could not believe it they had granted the permission! Five days!

Total time taken: 8 days
Cost: $0

Step 3 – Patrimonio Cultural
Patrimonio have a different branch that you also need to go through so the same day that we received the permission from Monumental we headed straight over to their office on Calle Merino, again in the Zona Colonial.
I wish I could say they were as organized… we went in and asked them what we have to do… they said you have to write a covering letter along with the plans and the permission from Monumental.
So the same day we handed everything in and they said it should be a few days. I remember thinking this is far to easy… and unfortunately it was. We had visited on numerous occasions and we kept on getting told tomorrow. This went on until christmas when at that point we started going in every day. They tell you to call to check the progress but the only way you can get them to work is if you actually go in and pester them.
So they finally sent a guy with us to go for another survey of the property… This was a joke as when we were there the guy did not have a clue what he was meant to do – he pulled out a tape measure and wrote down a few random measurements and left. About a week later after a few more visits they finally sat down with us to discuss the plans. The engineer put in the plans that we would use steel beams for the roof and floor cover by wood moldings. They told us that this is not allowed and we have to use wood. I found this hard to take as lots of places in the colonial zone use this technique but when we pointed this out they would not budge. I even told him to look up – the Colonial building that their office was in had steel beams!
We spoke to the engineer that did our plan and he said he would change it to wood but told us to ignore what they say and go to Ayuntamiento. I wish I never followed his advice as he was wrong. You have to get the permission from both Patrimonios before you go to Ayuntamiento – his advice cost us about a month in time.
Eventually we got the permits but it took its time. You really have to be on their backs everyday to get the permits else your plans will just sit on there shelves and not get touched.

Total time taken: 2 months
Cost: $0

Step 4 – Ayuntamiento
Now even though we had a bit of a delay in Patrimonio Cultural they were always polite – unorganized, but polite. Ayuntamiento is the government side of the permit process and it shows!
I have never been in a such unhelpful office. It’s obvious that the people working there do not really care about their work. We went in and asked what the process is for getting the permits and to be honest they didn’t really know. First of all, they said just gives us the plans which we did and they said they would call us in a week… no phone call. So we kept on going in and every time they said we needed one more document. In total we went back and forward 9 times just to give them documents. Eventually we had to say we were not leaving unless they give us a list of every document and plan we need to apply for the permits. It was at this point they found a list and gave it to us.
Again they said they will call us. One week, two weeks, three weeks past and nothing so we headed in to see what the progress was. The plans were still sitting in the receptions filing cabinet.
After about 6 weeks they moved on to one of the architect’s desks in the office next door. This was when the fun began, we would go in and they would say next week every time! It was getting tiring as they said to call but yet again if you call you will be waiting forever as they just tell you to call next week every time.
So I adopted a new approach and started to go in to the office almost every day. The architect hated me – probably because every time I went in I interrupted him on the internet.
I actually felt like it was something personal as they did not want to even look at the plans. It was another month until they finally opened up the plans and started to look. They are very good at excuses and always try and say something is missing. You really need to be on top of everything and just keep up the pressure – everyone knew me in the surrounding offices as I was in there so often – at least three times a week – every week!
This is where you have to pay a few fews but not a lot – and its all payable in the same building – in total there was three payments required for the permits – RD$4000 which is around $100 USD.
Eventually I think they just got fed up of me going in and pestering them and they said the permits have been agreed and the director needs to sign them… that took another month!
I was so excited when the director signed them as I thought we could start work… but nope they said before we can start they had to pass the plans on to Tasacion – which is the tax department. I am very glad my property is in the colonial zone as the properties are tax free in the area. If not, we would have had to pay a 5% of restoration cost in tax!
This was the point that I actually said screw them and started work, as they said the director had signed them and I was just waiting for the tax clearance. They had messed me around so much over the past 4 months it is unbelievable. Luckily the permits came through three weeks after I started work but I have to say Ayuntamiento are pretty much useless. Its not even the time that it all took that annoyed me, it was the attitude of the employees and the amount of lies to your face. I would have lost it if I was told ‘tomorrow’ one more time.

Total time taken: 4 months
Total cost: $100 USD

Step 5 – Obras Publicas

The next step is Obras Publicas… which is where I have deposited the plans but I have not completed it yet. However, you can start work as soon as you get the go ahead from Ayuntamiento. I will update this when this step is complete.

All in all it only really took six months for the permits – I say only as although it felt like forever I have heard that some people wait a lot longer! Anyway I know this is a pretty boring post but hopefully it will help someone at some point… Anyone that is going to do this needs a lot of patience and perseverance, but it is all worth it in the end.