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Planning, Development & Building ConstructionCommunity Development
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

Building Permits & Inspections

When do I need a building permit?
A building permit is required whenever you construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move or demolish a building or structure, or if you install or alter electrical, heating, air conditioning or plumbing equipment.  More Building Permit Information...
When isn’t a building permit required?
A permit is not required in the circumstances listed below.  However, before beginning a project, check with the Community Development Information Center email icon at 843-341-4757 to determine if the work complies with the provisions of the Land Management Ordinance.
  • Tool/storage sheds less than 120 square feet for Commercial and Residential. Even though a permit is not required, contact Community Development Services for zoning issues. Note: All projects in V Zones require a permit.
  • Driveways and sidewalks
  • Movable cases, counters and partitions not over 5’9”
  • Painting, papering, tiling, carpeting, countertops- if not part of additional on going work.
  • Privacy fences under 6’ unless located in an overlay district
  • Swings and playground equipment

If you are not sure whether the work you want to do requires a permit, call the Community Development Information Center email icon at 843-341-4757.

How do I apply for a building permit?
Building Permit application forms are available at Town Hall or online. Fill out the requested information on the form: site address, owner, contractor, and a complete description of the work and the value of construction. This figure must include the value of material, labor and profit to complete the work. Bring your completed application and plans, if required, to the Community Development Services Information Center.
How is a building permit fee determined?
A fee schedule is used to calculate the permit fee. Fees for new structures, additions and renovations are based on the value of the construction. Some permit types are charged flat fees for example, HVAC change outs, swimming pools or spas, and irrigation system installation. You can obtain a breakdown of fees at the Community Development Department web site.

If the value of single family alterations, repairs or remodels is less than $1,000, the permit fee will be waived.

Who may apply for a building permit?
Permits may be applied for by either the owner or the authorized agent of the owner.
How do I know if the contractor I hire is properly licensed?
The South Carolina Department of Labor and Licensing oversees professional and occupational licensing. They maintain a web site where you can look up contractor information and check if there are any outstanding complaints filed (www.llr.state.sc.usexternal link icon). You may also call the State at 803-896-4696. In addition to proper state licensing, anyone doing business in the Town of Hilton Head Island is required to have a current business license.

The State recommends that you

  • Make sure the contractor is bondable
  • Never pay for an entire job up front
  • Be specific about what you want done and put details in writing.
Can an owner act as his own contractor?
An owner may act as his own contractor if he/she meets the requirements of Section 40-59-260 of South Carolina Code of Laws.  The owner must apply for the permit in person and sign an Unlicensed Residential Builder Disclosure Statementpdf icon that is filed with the Beaufort County Register of Deeds.
When do I need drawings?
Drawings are required for all new structures, additions and structural changes. Basically, if you are moving walls, adding walls- doing anything structural, plans will be required. The construction documents should be of sufficient clarity to indicate the location, nature and extent of the proposed work. The drawings should show that the construction will comply with the current edition of the building codes and all relevant laws, ordinances, rules and regulations.
How long is a building permit valid?
A permit is valid as long as work is proceeding. If the work is halted or abandoned for a period of 180 days, the permit will expire.
What happens if a contractor or owner contractor begins work without first obtaining a building permit?
If work commences without a permit, a STOP WORK ORDER will be issued. Anyone working without a permit is subject to a $1,092.50 fine. A permit must be obtained to continue the work. The permit fee will be doubled.
How do I know if the work passed inspection?
As a Registered User of the Building & Development Citizen Access Portal (CAP), you may check the status of your inspections by logging in to view your permits and inspections. If not a Registered User, the inspector will email you the results. Paper copies of the inspection results will no longer be left on site.
How do I obtain an elevation certificate for an existing structure on Hilton Head Island?
All elevation certificates that have been submitted to the Town are maintained as public record. Copies may be obtained at no cost from the Town by using the Search option below. If you are unable to find the Certificate, use the Request option below for staff assistance or call 843-341-4625.

For properties constructed prior to 1984, submit a Freedom of Information Act request with Beaufort Countyexternal link icon.

Do pool heaters have to be elevated?
If located in an A Zone, pool heaters have to be tied down but do not have to be elevated. If located in a V Zone, the heater must be elevated.
Where can I find a copy of my house plan?
The Community Development Department retains single family house plans for 180 days after construction is complete. The plans are then discarded. Owners should maintain a copy of their house plans in order to rebuild in case of a disaster. Commercial plans are microfilmed upon completion of the work.
May I begin demolition before the permit is issued?
No. Your plans must be approved and the permit issued first.
What about clearing the land?
Always check with Community Development Services before any land disturbance.
Are there special procedures set up for permitting in the event of a declared disaster?
For details on procedures, please view the following flowcharts.

If you have questions, please contact Community Development Information Centeremail icon at 843-341-4757.

The following link will take you to of the Town of Hilton Head Island's Land Management Ordinance (LMO)external link icon then click on Chapter 9 - Disaster Recovery.

All construction must meet current building code regulations and must comply with FEMA regulations for flood control.

Planning & Development

How do I go about getting a permit to remove a tree on a single family lot?
If the tree is on a single family lot, permission to remove must be received from the Architectural Review Board or Property Owners' Association in your area if there is one. The only exception to this is in Forest Beach, where the Town controls tree removal in required setbacks from property lines on single family lots and the Forest Beach Association reviews tree removal on the entire lot.
How do I get a permit to remove a tree?
On all property other than single family lots, the Town has jurisdiction over tree removal. Send a written request to the Natural Resources Division stating the diameter in inches of the tree at chest height, the type of tree it is, and the reason why you feel it needs to be removed. Mark the tree so that a staff member can go look at it. If removal is approved, replanting of a similar tree or trees is often required. In many areas of the Town, approval may also be required by the Architectural Review Board and/or the Property Owners' Association. More tree protection information...
When I need tree work done, how do I know who to hire?
Since trees are living organisms, you want to hire someone who knows how they are put together and how they work. Look for a certified arborist, who must pass an extensive test to become certified, and earn continuing education credits to remain certified. Also be sure that the company you hire has both workmans' compensation and liability insurance.
How do I get copies of the Town's Long Range Plans?
The Town's Long Range Plans copies are available on this website or you may obtain hard copies are available at the Community Development Information Center. Certain plans are free of charge; others may be purchased.
How do I announce an event on one of the Town's Special Events Boards?
To announce a special event on one of the Town's three special events boards an application form must be completed and turned into the Community Development Information Center. More Information on the Special Events Boards...
How do I find out the zoning on a property?
A zoning search is provided on this website or you may call the Community Development Information Center email icon at 843-341-4757 with either the property address or the District, Map, and Parcel Number (taken from the tax bill).
How do I obtain a letter verifying the zoning?
Make your request in writing giving us the address and/or District, Map and Parcel Number for the location, and we will give you a verification in writing. Requests may be submitted by fax (843-842-8908), US Mail (Town of Hilton Head Island, Attention: Community Development Information Center, One Town Center Court, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928), or hand delivered to the Community Development Information Center located at Town Hall.
How do I obtain a permit to develop my property?
If it is a residential property, you need to get a building permit from the Community Development Department. If it is a commercial property, you need to submit applications for Development Plan Review and Design Review Board. It is also suggested that you go through the Pre-application Meeting in order to save you time and money. The Community Development Information Center email icon will be able to help you with your questions and give you guidance. 843-341-4757
How do I find out if my property is located in the jurisdiction of the Town's Design Review Board?
The Town's Design Review Board reviews development except for single family homes for all parcels of land that fall in the Corridor Overlay District. This district is located 450 feet along each side of all arterial roads and within 500 feet of the beach or marsh. A list of arterial roads is located in the Land Management Ordinanceexternal link icon in Chapter 5. You may also view the Corridor Overlay District Mappdf icon that shows the district.
What if my signs were impounded by Town Staff?
The owner of an impounded sign or sign structure may recover the same upon the payment of $50.00 for each sign plus the costs of removal. In the event it is not claimed within 10 days from the date of impoundment, the Administrator shall have authority to dispose of such sign or sign structure without compensation to the owner.  
How do I find building, planning or flood elevation records?
By using our Citizen Access Portal, you may search for digital records completed within the past few years. Older records are microfilmed and currently being converted for on line searches. For those records from 1984-2014 not available online, please fill out the Building Record Request.

For properties constructed prior to 1984, submit a Freedom of Information Act request with Beaufort Countyexternal link icon.

Building & Development Citizen Access Portal (CAP)

Will the Building & Development Citizen's Access Portal (CAP) work with mobile tablets and smart phones?
Yes, however, the permitting software is not built to fit the mobile screens.
Can I apply for all permits, approvals or requests via the CAP?
No. Certain processes are too complex or sensitive to apply via CAP so you must contact Town Hall for the applications. For example: appeals or lengthy FOIA requests are still done by contacting Town staff directly.
Can I apply for a building permit through CAP if I'm a homeowner who does not have a General Contractor?
No. Owner-Contractors must come to Town Hall to fill out forms.
Can a contractor identify certain employees to apply for the company permits through CAP?
Yes, the contractor can submit the names to the Town via the "Registration & Authorization for Residential Specialty, Residential Homebuilders and General Contractors" form. However, if this employee leaves the company, it is the General Contractor's responsibility to notify the Town to remove that person's name from the list.
How Do I find my Zoning?
There are 3 ways to determine your zoning:
  • Look your property up on our Zoning Map
  • Call Town Staff for verbal verification