Things You'll Need
Freedom of Information form or letter
Tax map parcel number for your property
You don't have to have a formal written Freedom of Information request when you initially ask for public records. However, searching through old files can be labor intensive, so municipal officials may require it so they can allow themselves more time to find what you need. In most states, local governments have four or five working days to respond to your request for information and then up to 20 days to process it. They can also charge you for copies. The Freedom of Information Act request should include your name and contact number, and specifically state which documents or information you are looking for. You aren't required to say why you want the information, and the government is not required to create a document if one does not already exist.
Unless you live in a very rural town that is void of any zoning laws or building codes — or if the roof on your home predates the local government — chances are there is a public record in your local town, village, city or county clerk's or code enforcement officer's office that details any major exterior renovations to your home, including a roof replacement. You are entitled to see those documents. According to FOIAdvocates, all 50 states have laws that preserves the public's right to obtain records from local governments.
Obtain the tax map parcel number for your property. If you don't have any documents in your possession containing that information — you may not if you don't have the deed to the property — contact your county's real property office or recording clerk. They can provide that information as long as you have the address.
Visit your town, village or city code enforcement office. Provide your address to a code or zoning officer, and ask him to search the data base or files for previous building permits issued to that address. A roof replacement project typically requires a building permit, and if the work involved changes to the structure, it might also require approval from a planning, zoning or community historic preservation board. The building permit should have an issued date, and may contain guidelines that limited the work period to a few months or one year. The code enforcement office might also have a final inspection report of the roofing work that affirms the work conformed to all local code regulations.
Stop at the city, town or village clerk's office. Ask her for any and all documents pertaining to previous exterior renovations at your address. That list of records could include minutes from zoning board, planning board or historic review boards that detailed the scope of the proposed roof project and the required time line for completing the work.
Aaron Gifford is based in New York. He has been on staff at the "Syracuse Post-Standard," the "Watertown Daily Times" and the "Oneida Daily Dispatch." He's also written for "Long Island Newsday," "Empire State Report" magazine and "In Good Health." He has been writing professionally since 1995. Gifford holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University at Buffalo.