Any grandfathering rules for patio permitting in Denver?

Jake

Well-known member
Oct 30, 2023
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I wanted to share this reddit post I came across recently as I want to get your thoughts. The user is discussing an issue he is having with enclosing a portion of their patio that is resulting in a permitting issue with the city. There is another patio space that was never permitted to begin with, that is currently adjacent to the current patio space. Due to this, they will be required to file a permit for the full square footage of both patios together as a completely new project, which comes to be about 370 square feet in total.

Their main concern, and this is where the question comes in, is there any "grandfathering" rules that would make them exempt from having to file a permit on the old patio since it's been there close to 20 years already? Especially if it's proven to have existed for that time?

Has anyone here had similar experiences to this?
 
Location
Denver, Colorado, United States

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It looks like in Denver, they require a structure, even if it was done 20+ years back, to be permitted. I read through some of the comments, and most suggest filing the permit as if there is nothing built yet. The city doesn't see it as a real structure and therefore you have to file a permit for that area along with the new patio area. The process would go more smoother if you followed the cities requirements. It's not worth attempting to bypass.

You also need to consider that the city's main concern is to ensure that all structures are within code and standards. That's the main reason they want permits and inspections done, even if this structure has been sitting for 20 years or longer. You may also be required to do a new comprehensive site survey, waste water approval, and detailed sketches relating to your property lines and so on.

I know it's not ideal to have to file a permit for something you don't want to, but it's better to file a new permit than waste time disputing it.
 
You also need to consider that the city's main concern is to ensure that all structures are within code and standards. That's the main reason they want permits and inspections done, even if this structure has been sitting for 20 years or longer. You may also be required to do a new comprehensive site survey, waste water approval, and detailed sketches relating to your property lines and so on.

Well said. I think the fact that the structure has been there for so long, if anything, represents even more of a reason the homeowner might want to complete permitting/inspections with the City. The homeowner doesn't describe the patio in any detail, but I imagine it could be subject to load bearing/structural code requirements depending on its configuration. And if it's a larger patio, it could potentially be non-compliant with any impervious surface cover and runoff requirements the City might have.
 
I was really curious about this question of whether Denver would ever actually allow a structure to be permitted by virtue of "grandfathering," so reached out to Denver's Community Planning and Development Department to ask. Here was their response:
The timeframe does not play a part unless it was established prior to the code being adopted. It would be considered new construction and require a permit (under the current adopted codes) assuming the codes had already been established but no permit was obtained.

So, interestingly, it looks like grandfathering is a real thing and it is possible the patio could be exempted from some code requirements. The homeowner mentioned that the patio appears in aerial photos going back 20 years, but could it have been built prior to any of the code requirements that currently apply? In this situation, it seems like it's really in a Denver homeowner's best interest to know when the unpermitted structure was built since that will inform how code compliance is evaluated during after-the-fact permitting. Depending on the patio's exact age, it's possible some older code requirements apply and other newer requirements do not.
 
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