**These are current as of 3/2019.**

As basement contractors, one of the questions we’re often asked regards filing permits. Instead of going from our experience, we went straight to Omaha’s Chief Inspector, Mike Wilwerding, for these answers.

Below are his responses and what is listed on the Omaha Planning Department’s website so you’re hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth.

What is a Permit?

A permit is an official approval by the City of Omaha Planning Department allowing contractors or homeowners to proceed with a construction project- such as a basement finishing.

Why Do I Need a Permit?

A permit is a way of providing reasonable controls for the design, construction, use, occupancy, and maintenance of buildings, their facilities, and various components. The permit document shows that a building project is being constructed under processes for insuring code compliance and public safety.

In other words, the permit is the well-being of the community in a broader sense (and not because the government wants a reason to charge us).

Do I Need a Permit for Finishing My Basement?

In short, yes. The list provided by the City of Omaha for work that needs a permit includes anything structural such a room additions, new dwellings, roofing or siding, decks, fences, basement finishing (or basement remodeling), garages, antennas or towers, sheds over 75 square feet, window replacements, retaining walls over 6 feet high, front yard parking, fireplaces, and wood stoves.

Do People Finish Basements Without Filing a Permit?

Mike said it happens all the time, but it’s illegal. The consequences of getting caught after the fact aren’t worth it.

For instance, he said that if they find out you finished a basement without a permit, they can charge you 4x the amount you would have paid otherwise. Additionally, you’ll have to tear out all the finishes (flooring, appliances, walls, etc.) so that the city can see the structure (plumbing, electrical, etc.) and properly inspect it.

The monetary penalty and the huge inconvenience of tearing out a newly finished basement simply aren’t worth it.

What Happens if My Basement Contractor Doesn’t File a Permit?

For the basement finishing company that is caught without filing a permit, the city will assess a quadruple fee. Whoever pulls the permit will have to pay this fee. In short, the homeowner is free and clear if they unknowingly went forth with a basement remodeler who didn’t take the proper steps.
Additionally, the city may revoke or suspend their contractor’s license for up to two years.

How Are People Caught If They Didn’t File a Permit?

Mike said they find out about permit violations in several ways. The most common source is from neighbor complaints. Sometimes it happens when home inspectors see signs of work and further investigate.
Either way, it’s not worth it try finishing a basement without a permit.

How Much does it Cost to File a Permit?

The cost of a permit is directly proportional to the cost of the project. For instance, the fee for the first $2,000 cost of a project is $44.28. Then it’s an additional $10 for every $1,000 in estimated project cost.

Additionally, there is a (fairly negligible) tech fee of $1.60 upon online registration.

Who Files a Permit?

When filing a permit for remodeling or finishing a basement, it’s often the basement contractor who files a permit on behalf of a homeowner. In many other instances, however, the homeowner who is doing the work themselves will file it as well.

How Do I File a Permit?

You can file a permit for finishing your basement either in person at 1819 Farnam St. Omaha NE, 68183 (room 1110 on the 11th floor) or online by clicking here.


At Hawthorne Finished Basements, we simply like to do things by the book. This includes doing all the things required by the City of Omaha for basement finishing. Integrity is one of our core values and obviously, this will serve to protect the interest of homeowners.

If you want to work with us, shoot us an email at hello@hawthornebasements.com or give us a call at (402) 321-5260.