Do I Need a Permit to Do This? – Santa Cruz County Edition

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When you make a modification to your property, it’s important to understand the permitting requirements. A licensed contractor should know if a permit is needed for a job. However, it is ultimately your responsibility to ensure that all necessary permits were obtained for the work done. Building Code rules vary from city to city. The safest course of action is to inquire with your local planning or building department before starting work.

County of Santa Cruz

This webpage will provide guidance as to whether a permit will be required or not.

City of Capitola

You can find guidance about residential work exempt from building permits here.

City of Santa Cruz

You’ll need to contact the planning department directly to determine if a permit will be required. You can find the contact information here.

City of Watsonville

Contact the planning department directly to determine if a permit will be required in the City of Watsonville. You can find the contact information here.

City of Scotts Valley

Contact the building department directly to determine if a permit will be required for the work that you want to do. You can find the contact information here.

What If I’ve Already Done the Work Without a Permit?

Many properties in the County of Santa Cruz have unpermitted work. If unpermitted work has already been done on your property, you can:

  1. Get it permitted.
  2. Disclose this fact when selling your home.

The former may entail ensuring that all work met the current building codes. However, a new law has relaxed this requirement.

With the recent enactment of CA Senate Bill 1226, it has become easier to make a unit legal. In simple terms, SB 1226 allows building officials to recognize an illegal unit as an existing residential building. This means that they can apply the codes in effect when the building was first built in order to issue a building permit. You can read more about this change here


I have been been working as a real estate consultant since 2001 and a Broker since 2014. I have lived in the Santa Cruz for 11+ years and have specialized knowledge of the Santa Cruz County real estate market which I use to help my clients buy and sell residential and commercial real estate. When you choose to work with Schneider Estates, you will work directly with me and my small team of specialists. We strive to provide high-quality real estate service and consult.