By: Lane F. Kelman and Stasha M. Sosnowicz
Construction projects in Philadelphia now need to grapple with the City’s March 22 updated “Business Activity and Stay at Home Order.” Guidance released on March 23 by the City on its order illuminates which construction projects may continue and how the permitting and licensure system will operate in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic for authorized projects. Recently, Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections gave additional guidance on how the order affects construction projects throughout the City. All projects not authorized by the order must be shut down by Friday, March 27 at 5:00 PM. Moreover, for any construction projects allowed to continue under the order, all standard permitting and licensing requirements still apply and can be coordinated through L&I’s eCLIPSE portal.
Authorized and Unauthorized Construction
All construction work that does not fall into one of the order’s express exemptions must terminate by Friday, March 27 at 5:00 PM. To that end, all project sites must be “made safe and secure” by that time, which means securing loose or unattached items and equipment, safeguarding the site from trespassers, taking measures to protect adjacent properties, and ensuring the structural stability and integrity of buildings under construction. Specifically for occupied, residential properties, contractors must also ensure that they have left the site in a safe and habitable condition by the deadline.
The order allows certain other construction to continue beyond the March 27 deadline:
- Non-emergency construction for medical, pharmaceutical, and other healthcare facilities
Non-emergency essential infrastructure projects for the City
- Non-emergency repairs and maintenance for safety, sanitation, and functional operations of the household for occupied residential properties only, such as a roof, plumbing, or HVAC-system repair
- Emergency repairs for residential and non-residential properties
- “Make-safe” work meant to fix infractions for imminently dangerous or unsafe properties.
Normal permitting and licensure requirements must still be fulfilled, and the City has explicitly noted that a failure to obtain such prerequisites will not be excused by the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Permitting Mechanisms for Authorized Projects
To comply, the L&I’s eCLIPSE system should be used to apply for any new required permits for jobs requiring a licensed contractor. Additionally, there are different permitting requirements for certain authorized projects. Permits for emergency repairs to residential and non-residential projects must be obtained within three days of the emergency work. For any “make-safe” work, an advance appointment to obtain a permit must be made online, followed by an in-person appointment at L&I’s office at 1512 Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
For all other authorized work that requires permits and licensure, the permits must be obtained through eCLIPSE within three days of initiating any work. Moreover, the repairs must be documented through photos or videos and uploaded with all required within seven days of completion of the work.
All work at occupied residences must include cleaning and sanitization of work areas by all occupants and construction workers, maintaining a distance of at least ten feet between workers and occupants, and only using the minimum number of workers needed for the daily work.
While the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are constantly changing the construction norms in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the order’s authorization of a broad range of construction projects highlights the important position of construction in the regional and national economy, despite the additional red tape. No matter the hurdle, the attorneys at Cohen Seglias are here to help any contractor or subcontractor navigate these new regulatory systems and protect their projects and contracts.