Municipal Fees Study
Alex James
Director of Government Affairs

Over the past three years your HBA team has been conducting extensive research into the fees and regulations that exist for home builders in each of the cities and counties throughout this state. We contacted and followed up with every single city and county in South Carolina and compiled the data in spreadsheets for comparison. We are happy to provide you with any of these results or answer any of your questions about them.

THE QUESTIONS

We asked each municipality and county what kind of business licenses and building permits they required, where and how you apply for and receive each of those, any cost associated with either, and how that cost is calculated. We also asked if there were any additional costs associated with home building required by the entity and the process and timing for reviewing and approving each license, permit, inspection, or any other inquiry, and where and how each had to be applied for. We specifically asked if sub-contractor were charged building permit fees as well as the contractor. And we asked about the policies and fees regarding utilities.

THE RESPONSES
Business Services:

We received information from more than 90% of the major cities and all of the counties. Nearly all cities have business license fees ranging from $35 to $4,100 with the average fee being $378 while a very low percentage of counties have a countywide business license (based on $200,000 gross receipts). The average developmental review time from submittal to approval for most cities is 1 to 2 days and the vast majorities are approved on first submittal while for counties it takes on average two weeks for development review time and almost 75% of all submittals are approved upon this first review. About half of the cities provide a one stop shop for licensing, permitting and business services while almost all counties have them in one location. Most cities have a service representative and most have some policy regarding quick response to communication. Only four counties have a service representative, but most ensure a speedy response to business service inquiries.

Utilities:

Most cities and counties do not provide water and sewer services; however, a number of counties do provide selective water and sewer services. Of those that do provide most of water and sewer services, almost none of them have an extension agreement policy to allow businesses to recoup the cost of offsite utilities. Approximately 30% of counties and all nearly all of the cities require prepayment of taps prior to issuing permits, but almost none require a monthly standby fee for tap holders. Only one county and three cities require utility improvements beyond standard DHEC minimum and only one county and city each have a reimbursement policy for upgrading or upsizing facilities.

Permits:

About 25% of counties provide online services in regards to purchasing permits and obtaining certificates, and while about 33% of cities provide online purchasing of permits nearly half provide online certificates of occupancy. Most cities allow for inspections to be requested online and we did not ask counties that question. Many counties and cities that didn’t provide these online services remarked that they were either in the process of getting these online operations underway or that they wished they had the means to accomplish these online services for convenience. 30% of counties charge sub-contractors permit fees when the contractor has already paid a fee for the same project. Half of the responding cities charge all subcontractors permit fees and 2/3rds require at least mechanical, plumbing and electrical subcontractors to pay permit fees. On average it takes a county about four business days for the average turnaround time for home building permits. For cities the average turnaround time is one week with some taking as little as a few minutes and others taking a month or more. The average time for building inspection schedules for both cities and counties is under two business days (many cities and counties have next or same day policies). About 10% of cities and counties charge impact fees for infrastructure. The average permit fee for both cities and counties is roughly $1000 for a $200,000 home and a 50% plan review fee is assessed in almost all cities and there is some plan review fee in at least 25% of counties. SCBJ