As we reflect upon the past year, few in the Delaware Valley will forget the fateful day in June when a building located at 22nd and Market Streets collapsed in the midst of demolition work performed by contractor Griffin Campbell, which claimed six lives. In an effort to improve safety and prevent such tragedies from recurring, the City of Philadelphia took swift action in an effort to improve the process through which contractors obtain demolition permitting.

building permit.jpgIn the City’s latest effort to improve upon safety, Philadelphia’s Licenses and Inspections Department (L&I) has issued new permitting and licensure requirements that took effect last week. The new requirements apply to all contractors conducting business in the City of Philadelphia. Permit applicants will be required to provide a Tax Clearance form and a Certificate of Insurance, and license holders will be required to clearly display license information on the job site and on business materials.

Applications for Construction and Demolition Permits

In the past, Philadelphia has required Tax Clearance certifications for limited situations such as zoning appeals. Now, the rules require all permit applicants to provide a Tax Clearance form certifying that the applicant is in compliance with, or intends to work with the City to cure any violations of, the tax and regulatory provisions of The Philadelphia Code. Contractors can obtain the Tax Clearance forms at the Department of Revenue’s website.

Permit applicants also must provide Certificates of Insurance to demonstrate appropriate insurance coverage for the work to be performed. These certificates are available from a contractor’s insurer, and must contain the following basic information:

  • indicate current general liability, workers’ compensation and automobile liability coverage;
  • reflect minimum general liability coverage of $500,000;
  • describe the type of operations/work covered by the insurance;
  • name the City of Philadelphia as Certificate Holder and an Additional Insured; and,
  • include contact name and phone number of the contractor’s insurance broker or agent.

Display of License Information

In addition to the new tax clearance and insurance certificate requirements, contractors should also be aware that recent changes to Title 9 of the Philadelphia Code have made display requirements significantly more stringent. Philadelphia Code Section 9-1004 lays out the requirements for trade license holders, including for all contractors, registered master plumbers, electrical contractors, warm air installers and fire suppression system contractors. The Code now requires all licensees to display their license number in the following places:

  • each job site;
  • business signage;
  • advertisements;
  • stationery / correspondence;
  • proposals and contracts; and,
  • all company vehicles when used during the course of business.

The Code requires the displays to be at least two (2) inches high and clearly visible. Unauthorized transfer or sharing of license numbers or failure to display required license information may result in license suspension, fines, or license revocation.

In addition to public health and safety, another reason for these additional requirements is the generation of revenue to offset compliance and enforcement activities. Though the City, through a spokeswoman for L&I, has acknowledged that the new requirements would not have prevented contractor Griffin Campbell from obtaining a permit to demolish the property at 22nd and Market Streets, these latest requirements represent a continued effort to shore up construction safety in the City. They also present new hoops through which City contractors must jump in order to obtain permitting for City construction and maintain and valid license to perform work in the City. For more information about how these requirements affect you and your business, feel free to contact us.

Daniel E. Fierstein is an Associate in the Construction Group of Cohen Seglias and focuses his practice on construction law. Dan counsels clients at all tiers of the construction industry, including general contractors, subcontractors, owners, developers, and design professionals.

Catherine Nguyen is an Associate in the Construction Group and concentrates her practice in the area of construction litigation. She has represented clients in construction litigation, contract disputes, landlord-tenant matters and consumer protection cases.