Historic row houses in East Baltimore, via Wikimedia Commons

This should be music to homeowners’ and contractors’ ears: Baltimore City’s permitting process has entered the 21st century.

Mayor Catherine Pugh, Acting Housing Commissioner Michael Braverman and City Council President today announced the rollout of an online system called “ePermits.” It allows anyone seeking a permit to modify their home, business or other property to do so online, instead of by driving down to E. Fayette Street downtown to wait in line and get some paper stamped and signed at Baltimore Housing.

“We have spent considerable time and energy to build an online permitting system that will allow people to get permits 24 hours a day, seven days a week from home,” said Braverman at a press conference.

Pugh said she began actively considering the problems of waiting for a permit to fix up one’s bathroom or work on a development project shortly after the 2016 primary.

“When I heard how long it can possibly take to get your bathroom remodeled or to deal with some plumbing problems that you may have in your own home, I was like, ‘Wow, this doesn’t make much sense,’” she said.

Braverman noted that in the permitting process, other agencies like the Department of Public Works must oftentimes also sign off on changes to properties. Now, that can happen electronically.

He emphasized the role of paper under the old system: “People would go to different agencies with a piece of paper, and have the different agencies sign off on a piece of paper—“

“—no more,” said Mayor Pugh.

Baltimore issues about 30,000 permits annually, Braverman said. In the past, only about 10 percent were granted online – most of them major construction projects – but since the “soft opening” of ePermits about a month ago, between 40 and 50 percent of approved permits have been processed through the portal.

The change should also benefit plumbers, electricians and other professionals.

“Those contractors, many of them no longer ever have to come here and say hello to us,” Braverman said, earning some chuckles.

Council President Jack Young said he had seen online permitting already in Baltimore County and asked why the city couldn’t offer the same. “We want to make things easy for our citizens and for our businesses,” instead of forcing them to come downtown and pay to park and wait in line, he said.

The ePermits system is up and running now. It separates out the different kinds of work on the homepage, with categories for demolition, plumbing, HVAC and more. If you’re planning some changes to your property, click here to give it a try.

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...