Step 1 - Before You Start

Graphic arrow showing step 1, Start.

Our job is to make sure your plans meet all the local, state and international building codes to ensure safety. Most projects do require a permit so please check with us before getting started.

To ensure compliance with local, state and international building codes, Missoula County requires permits for many types of work you may want to have done on your property. Before you get started with the permit application process, there are a few questions you’ll need to answer. If you don't know the answers, the Property Fast Facts feature on the right side of the page can help you track them down.

  1. Where is the property located?

    This website pertains to permits needed for properties within Missoula County but outside the Missoula city limits. If your property is within the City of Missoula, please visit the city’s Development Services website instead. If you’re unsure, use the Fast Facts feature provided through Missoula County’s Property Information System, located on the right side of this page, to determine whether your property is within the city or the county.

  2. Does your property have a physical address?

    If you’re building new construction, you need to make sure you have an address. Acquiring an address is the first step in the permitting process. You need an address to apply for all permits, including well/septic, utilities and building permits. Address assignment is done in accordance with the Missoula County Public Works regulations and the Missoula County 9‑1‑1 Center requirements.

  3. Are you the property owner?

    Current owner information listed on permit applications must match the information on the deed for the property. This is one of the first steps staff take when reviewing applications. Exceptions apply, including submittal of a buy-sell agreement or power of attorney documentation, or to apply for a well or septic permit.

    Also, certain permits allow a homeowner to do their own work, or be exempt from a permit, while some permits and projects require a licensed trade contractor.

  4. What do you know about the property? Are there restrictions on what work you can do?

    Is the property close to a river, stream or other body of water? Are there steep slopes or other irregular terrain nearby? Are there already existing buildings on it? Are there specific covenants, development plans or restrictions associated with your parcel? Thinking of things like this ahead of time will help make the application process easier down the road.

  5. What’s your project? How complex is it?

    Are you building a new house? Remodeling an existing one? Adding a deck? Drilling a well or installing a septic system? Finishing a basement? All of the above? Knowing the specifics of the work you’ll be doing will set you up for success when applying for permits.

    If your project is complex, consider scheduling a meeting with the Missoula County Development Review Team. This will give you a chance to meet with staff from the appropriate agencies related to your project, all at the same time. This includes engineering, building, fire, parks, health and planning department representatives. They will help you navigate any big items that you need to take care of first so your project doesn’t get held up at the end. Scheduling a DRT meeting can help save you time, money and frustration!

    To set up a DRT meeting, call 406-258-3706 or email lcmiller@missoulacounty.us. Meetings are held at 1:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month.

  6. Will you need a septic permit or evaluation?

    If you are building a house or other structure needing plumbing, you will either need a septic system or the ability to connect to city sewer. Even if you don’t think your project involves a septic system, it’s best to check with the Health Department first so there are no surprises later. If a septic permit is required, it will need to be finalized before other permits can be issued. Contact the Health Department at 406-258-4990. You can read more on septic system evaluations in the Resources section.

After you’ve answered some of the basics, you’re ready for Step 2: Do Your Research, which will guide you through which permits you’ll likely need.

Why do I need permits, anyway?

Permits protect you and your family, home and financial investment. They are designed to ensure licensed contractors do the work when required. They also protect you and your neighbors from groundwater contamination, exposure to sewage and storm run-off problems.

Inspections ensure work is done safely and that it meets the minimum code requirements. Incorrect installations can result in house fires, flood damage and/or structural problems, environmental contamination or unsafe drinking water, and higher costs down the road.

Minor problems that could lead to costly repairs, liability and life safety issues can also be detected during inspections and brought to your attention before the situation worsens.

When selling a property, the buyer, real estate agent or lender may require that unpermitted work be properly permitted, corrected and inspected before closing. This leaves you in the position of scrambling to get unpermitted work permitted.

It’s the law. State Building Code and the local Health Code require that permits be obtained for certain types of work. Permits provide a legal record of work performed.