Understanding the Territory’s Building Authority  –  Like all territories and states, construction in the Virgin Islands is guided by necessary legislation, processes and steps to ensure structures meet the territory’s planning guidelines and, most important, are safe structures for its occupants.Though the process is necessary, it can be tedious and prospective builders might even be unsure about the necessary documents and approvals needed prior to laying their first block.  

Before the actual construction of buildings, commercial or residential, property developers must obtain permission to build from the Government of the Virgin Islands.  A five-member  panel appointed by His Excellency The Governor, known as the Building Authority is responsible for issuing building permits. Members of the authority include the Director of Public Works and four members of the community with various careers in the construction field. The primary function of the Authority is to review plans and applications for development to ensure that all construction is in compliance with the Building Regulations 1999 and Building Ordinance (CAP 234). The documents guide the minimum standards for construction and materials used in the construction industry in the Virgin Islands.

During the Building Authority’s evaluation, developers are asked to submit three complete sets of working drawings.

The three complete sets of drawings developers are asked to submit include:

There is an application fee of $350. This fee covers the charge for the building permit and several compulsory inspections during the building process.

Permission to build is given after construction plans and drawings are evaluated by the government. Agents, often architects and contractors, must submit project schemes to the Town and Country Planning Department for evaluation. Once that assessment is completed, and only after a seal of approval, certificates and file number are given by the Department, construction plans can be brought to the Building Authority for a construction evaluation. Only after a complete evaluation will an actual permit to build in the Territory will be granted.  

Once plans meet the Authority’s requirements, the approval process takes approximately three weeks. Building permits are valid for two years. If the development is not completed within two years, plans should be returned to the Authority for revision and revalidating.  This is at no additional charge to the developer.

Upon the commencement of construction, it is the developer’s responsibility to contact the Building Authority to schedule necessary inspections. For each level of a structure, six evaluations must me done:

The Authority should be contacted no later than one day prior to the phase to be inspected on Tortola and two days on Virgin Gorda, Anegada, Jost Van Dyke and the remaining islands. A Certificate of Occupancy is awarded once the final inspection has been conducted and the building meets all the necessary requirements. The building should not be occupied before the issuance of this certificate.

It is important to note that permission to take down a structure is also required. Such an application can also be filed with the Building Authority. This application process can take at least two days. A representative from the Authority will make a site visit to inspect the property to confirm all utilities (water, electricity and telephone) have been disconnected prior to demolition as well as to make certain the process for demolition will be completed in a safe manner.

We hope this information has been helpful for prospective home owners as you prepare to turn your dream of home ownership into a reality. For some, this process might be a little monotonous, but rest assured it is necessary for the safe construction of your property on islands that are prone to numerous hazards. The work of the Authority seeks to keep property owners safely in their real estate for years to come.

The Building Authority is housed and attached to the Public Works Department located at Baugher’s Bay on Tortola.