The Chicago Building Code, a heavy, ponderous two-volume tome that, if you are not careful, can weigh on you like the 4 1/2 pounds that it is. This is the sort of reading that inspires fear deep into the heart of many, professional and civilian. (Remember reading Moby Dick in high school? You know, the endless chapter on fishing gear? Sorta' like that except that not understanding and obeying it can cost you thousands of dollars in fines and headache.) In fact, a whole industry of advisors has grown up around interpreting it and assisting the uninitiated. Fear not! We will dip our toes into the water and move forward together.
A few years back, one of our beloved clients sold his 14 story, 1920s masonry apartment building to a large private equity firm for a published price of $57 million. Yes, we were astonished by the price, too. There was some work to be done on the building and we were just getting started. Changing the owner name on the permit was the first order of business. We quickly discovered something about the firm that had recently issued a $500 million bond to buy "investment grade" apartment buildings. (I can only imagine the regulatory paperwork involved in that.) The firm, like many of us, did its homework but was missing one small thing: The firm was NOT registered with the City of Chicago.
Mon dieu! What is the meaning of this! (Sounds better if said with the accent belonging to one of the characters of Ratatouille. See above.)
A good place to begin is Chapter 13-28, REGISTRATION FOR BUILDING WORK.
"Every person, firm or corporation engaged in the business of constructing, altering, repairing, removing, or demolishing the whole of any part of buildings or structures, or the appurtenances (sic.) thereto in the city, shall before undertaking the erection, enlargement, alteration, repair, removal or demolition of any building structure, for which permits are required by this Code, register the name and address of such person, firm or corporation in a book kept the Executive Director and used for this purpose. In the case of a firm or corporation, the names of each individual comprising the firm and the names of each officer of a corporation shall so be registered."
I just love that word "appurtenances." I have no idea what it means but it sounds serious! My new private equity firm client, whom had spent tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to incorporate and issue the bond, had never registered with the City of Chicago. So they asked me to do it. And it went well. The lesson here I offer people is that even a well-financed and prepared private equity firm doing business in the City of Chicago is in need of help when it comes to the City's code. My advice is to talk to a seasoned professional and let him or her guide you through the process. Like in the movie Ratatouille where a rat makes amazing food, judging a book by its cover (with it concomitant terror) is not always productive.
If you have questions about the Chicago Building Code, please send us an email.