You’ll need to work with many different service professionals when going through a significant alteration, renovation, or new construction project. One of these is the expeditor—someone who helps with filing. They can make your project far more manageable and less time-consuming. We explain what expeditors do, how to hire one, and why they can be a worthwhile investment.
What is an Expeditor?What is an Expeditor?
Any major renovation or building project in NYC will inevitably require a Department of Buildings (DOB) permit. While filing for this permit can be pretty straightforward, a lack of experience can lead to costly mistakes and delays. The expeditor’s job is to handle all of this filing for you and speed up the process. The official name for an expeditor is a Filing Representative. Typically fully licensed and receive training from the DOB. At their most basic level, their job is to:
- Schedule meetings
- Interpret permit applications and drawings
- Offer advice on what is needed to obtain the permit(s)
- Explain building codes
- Sort out difficult applications with unusual circumstances
New York City’s building codes and zoning laws can be highly complex and confusing to the uninitiated. Even trained architects can get lost in this maze-like structure that often changes without notice. Some projects may even require specialized permits from agencies such as the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the Fire Department. Since an expeditor comes fully trained from the DOB and remains in contact with them, they’ll know immediately about any changes and how to file for them correctly. A specialist like this can make a difference.
How to Hire an ExpeditorHow to Hire an Expeditor
As with any consultant, we recommend that you do your research before hiring one. Most architects or contractors will likely have someone on call that they work with regularly. In addition, by using their database, you can quickly look up any individual or company to check that they are licensed and registered through the DOB. Another good resource is the DOB’s list of bad actors disciplined for one reason.
The cost of hiring an expeditor can vary depending on the level of work involved and who you hire. A solo consultant working out of their briefcase on a small project might only cost a few hundred dollars. However, a large company that involves several expeditors working together can easily cost anywhere from $2,000-$5,000 or more, depending on the project’s scope. Keep in mind that this is Buyer Beware territory, low-cost expeditors might seem tempting, but they can often make things worse for a complex project. Choose an expeditor based on what you feel your needs are. As architects like to say in this business, time is money.
Changing TimesChanging Times
Recently, the Department of Buildings launched an online processing system for sifting through their permits. DOB NOW allows you to eliminate the need to visit their offices in person with a mountain of paperwork in tow. But don’t think this transition to online applications has made the process any easier. Compliance laws and zoning codes are just as complex as ever and require you to provide documentary evidence. If you choose the DIY route, then know that mistakes can still happen, and it’s not unusual for applications and paperwork to slip through the cracks. Hiring an expeditor remains the most surefire way to get everything approved promptly.
In your research into expeditors, you’re likely to uncover unsavory details about their history (like this New York Times article from 1991). The profession has been blighted by reports of payoffs, corruption, and other bad actions. While things have improved thanks to more oversight, scandals do still happen.
If you research and find someone with a proven track record and impeccable references, there is no reason to suspect they won’t get the job done honestly and correctly. But, of course, the same applies to any professional you choose to hire.
Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts
Hiring an expeditor depends on what feels more important to you, time or money. In this business, time is money, and a delay of several weeks as you wait for permits to clear can add more expenses to your project. For anyone undertaking a complex renovation that requires multiple permits from different agencies, the choice seems clear, get an expeditor. Smaller projects may require less paperwork and be unlikely to need an expeditor. But know that in NYC, even small renovation projects can feel needlessly complex.