General Q&A

General Building Questions

What should be done about Asbestos?

To find out on how to deal with Asbestos and what is required please visit the Montana state website. Also please see this handout (PDF).

What are permits and why do I need one?

Permits are the way Richland County regulates construction. This is designed to ensure that all construction in the county is safe. The safety of the occupants of buildings is the primary reason for having construction codes. Richland County has adopted several building codes along with what the State of Montana uses which can be found under the building code information tab.

There are several different types of permits based on the type of construction - structural, plumbing, mechanical, and electrical. Most home owner projects require more than 1 type of permit. Richland County can provide building permits but the others are provided by Montana.

Obtaining a building permit is just the first step in the process. In this step you may need to create plans to submit to the building department, make a plot plan of your property showing the improvements, and show the type of construction you'll be using.

Once the plans are approved you're required to build the project to those plans. If any changes are made to the plans they must be made with the Building Department's approval.

How do permits protect a home?

Permits ensure that a certified inspector will inspect the construction project or installation. Inspections make sure work is done safely and to code. When a city or county inspector approves work, a homeowner can get questions answered and know that the work has been checked for any safety violations. This is of particular value to the do-it-yourselfer who doesn't make installations every day. Incorrect installations can result in house fires, flood damage, and/or structural problems.

Where do I get a permit?

Building permits are issued by Building Inspector Alton Hillesland at 115 2nd Street SE. The Building Office is open from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Or you can find the permit application online at This application will still need to be taken to the Building Inspector for approval

For electrical, mechanical, or plumbing permits you will have to contact the state. A good starting point is visiting their website.

When do I need a construction permit?

A construction permit is needed for all new construction. In many cases a permit is needed for repair or replacement of existing fixtures. A plumbing, electrical, or mechanical permit is needed for any addition or changes to a building's existing system and new construction. If you are unsure whether or not your project needs a permit please call the Building Inspector at (406) 433-2809 or the State of Montana Building Division at (406) 841-2056.

When don't I need a permit?

A permit is not needed for items such as wallpapering, painting, or similar finish work. Plumbing, mechanical, and electric work replacing or repairing fixtures (such as changing water faucets) do not normally require a permit. A permit is also not required for certain agriculture structures to find out whether or not your project requires a permit please contact the Building Inspector at (406) 433-2809 or the State of Montana Building Division at (406) 841-2056.

What if I don't get a permit?

If a permit, when needed, is not obtained before construction, you will have violated County codes and regulations. You then can be subject to fines and penalties. You'll then be required to obtain permits for the work and it must pass inspection, or you will have to return the structure or site to its previous condition. Remember construction codes were created for safety reasons. Work built without a permit can be unsafe, no matter how good it looks.

Who should obtain the permit?

Contractors, architects, engineers, or your agent can obtain permits. The homeowner can also obtain the permits.

What about inspections?

It is your responsibility to call us for inspections at specific times during construction. You may have your contractor make the call, but it is still your responsibility, as the property owner, to make sure the inspections are made. Inspections are made during certain points in the project depending on the work that is being performed. To see when inspections are required please go to the inspections page.

What is a Certificate of Occupancy?

 A Certificate of Occupancy is a document that notifies owners, buyers, or other interested parties that required inspections have been performed and the structure is in compliance with the adopted building codes. While inspections and the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy do not guarantee the structure is defect-free, it does provide a level of safety to occupants, as well as property protection that would that would not otherwise exist. In lieu of a Certificate of Occupancy on remodels and small additions, a Certificate of Final Inspection may be issued as confirmation that all the inspections have been completed.

When is a Certificate Necessary?

When a building is constructed or remodeled, permits are required. The permit process provides oversight by an unbiased, third party professional that includes inspection and plan review for code compliance.

A Certificate of Occupancy is issued after the builder has requested a series of inspections and has corrected any deficiencies discovered during the construction process. The oversight helps to ensure that minimum life-safety and protection features have been properly addressed. This adds to the long term value of the property.

How is this all funded?

Inspections and plan reviews are funded through the purchase of a building permit by the builder or applicant. In turn, this cost is passed on to the consumer.

The end user should demand a Certificate of Occupancy from the owner or contractors as they have paid for the service. When a project is completed without a Certificate of Occupancy it becomes increasingly difficult to obtain one.