Do I Need a Permit for a Mobile Office?
Just because a mobile office is portable, compact and generally temporary doesn’t mean you can plunk it down anywhere you want without a permit — depending, of course, on where you put it down.
“Depending on the town, you will need a permit from the local town municipality to have a trailer on site,” said Kristina Weinrich, account manager of ModSpace in Berwyn, Penn.
“You generally do not need a permit; however, it greatly depends on where you are putting it specifically,” said John Rogers, owner of Affordable Portable Housing in Kailua, Hawaii.
Mobile office suppliers agree that permits are usually not necessary to install an office trailer on an existing construction site if the unit is specifically used for overseeing the building development, consolidating construction documents and/or building supplies and tools in one convenient place, restroom and coffee-break facilities, etc. In this case, the site has already been zoned and permitted for the building going up, and the office trailer is part of the post-construction “takedown,” like the scaffolding.
A permit is likely required for a standalone mobile office functioning as an address or part of an existing address. In that situation, it is considered a construction job that needs a permit like any other construction job, because the municipality will need information on what kind of foundation will support the unit, how it will be situated on the foundation, and what kinds of utilities and utility connections the trailer will use, according to McDonald Modular of Milford, Mich. A mobile office site may also require zoning for its particular use or a zoning variance approval from the zoning board of appeals of its city or town, especially if it’s in a residential neighborhood.
Securing the permit is the sole responsibility of the mobile office buyer or renter. However, many suppliers will assist the customer with gathering the permit application documentation, which may include the unit’s foundation plan, utility and fire alarm/sprinkler schema, handicapped-accessible ramp construction specs, etc., according to Mobile Modular of Livermore, Calif. All permit application forms and regulations should be obtained from the local building department and code enforcement agency, not the mobile office supplier, according to Apple Mobile Leasing of Hinckley, Ohio.
Since many mobile office customers are unaware of the permit requirements in their city or town, always consult with the appropriate local agencies before hauling your unit onto its targeted site and finding out you’re a “squatter.”