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Want To Build Without Waiting For A Permit? (Read This First)

When it comes to building and renovation, the process starts with ideas then moves into getting a permit and planning permission. Planning the style, budgeting cost of materials and labor, and plotting the perfect location to build you shed is the fun part. Which makes thinking about dealing with the county on getting a permit feel too hard to deal with.

To be honest, getting a permit is hard and depending on the county, might take more time and effort than most people have to spend. But, do you actually need a permit?

Do I Need A Building Permit For A Shed?

You do not need a building permit for a shed as long as it does not exceed the maximum height allowed, does not need electricity or plumbing, and the structure of the main house is unchanged. Certain States require a permit for all new structures. The homeowner is responsible for checking with the county of residence.

Once upon a time, more than 200 years ago, there was no such thing as building codes. Those who came before us can build anything they want, as long as it’s within their property and the neighbors agree with it. But when urban planning needs became apparent in major areas, the United States started implementing building codes. 

To prevent disasters from failed constructions, the country decided to make it into a law that each homeowner would seek authorizations before construction. Although this is the case in most situations, there are still several exceptions.

Important Questions About Building Or Construction Permits

What Is A Building Permit?

A building permit or planning permission is a written document that authorizes the homeowner to construct a project.

It is a document only issued by the municipality, city, or state. Before you can receive a permit, you need to apply for it. You need to prepare your site plan (made by an architect or other professionals) and schedule an inspection. The whole process can take weeks, depending on the complexity of your plan. 

Why Do You Need A Building Permit? 

Building permits are required because of two reasons: to make sure that the structures in an area are sound and safe, and to avoid widespread disasters due to failed urban planning.

This way, life-threatening hazards (fire, electrical, etc) will be avoided or minimized as possible. With a building permit, you can rest assured that the structure in your property will not cause any accidents to you, your family,  and other members of the neighborhood. 

If you have a structure that is already built and doesn’t have a permit, click here for more.

When Are Building Permits Required? 

Projects that make significant changes in the structure of your house will likely require permits. This is to ensure that your building will still be safe after renovation. You would also need permits for constructing structures that can affect the sanitation and public utilities (water systems, sewers, electrical distribution, etc.) 

Small repairs and changes such as repainting the interior, building small fences, or replacing a cabinet will not require a building permit. Detached structures like sheds and garages might or might not need a permit, depending on the situation. 

What If I Skip Getting A Permit? 

Unfortunately, a lot of homeowners have tried (and failed) to sidestep building codes. Besides the obvious structural hazards, the homeowner can encounter several problems. For example, if you’re planning to sell your house in the future, the sale will likely not go as planned because of a lack of a permit.

In addition, if your project is still on-going, the city or municipality can take action and stop the said construction. When this happens, the city can force you to get a permit and pay increased prices fees. Even if you hired a contractor for your house, it is still your duty to get the permit and make sure that everything will go smoothly. 

What Is The Maximum Height You Can Build Without Planning Permission?

Just like other laws in the United States, business codes differ from one state to another. Hence, the maximum height that you can build without permission will depend on where you want the structure to be made. Just like liquor laws, the maximum height of a build will depend on state laws. 

For example, if you live in Austin, Texas, the highest structure you can build without getting a permit is about 15 ft. Build beyond that level, and you’d have to get your hands on some permit. If you live in Los Angeles, the height limit is only 12 feet. 

Meanwhile, if you’re planning to construct a building in the UK without planning permission, you must limit your build to 2.5 meters in height. Your build must also be within two meters of the boundary of the curtilage. Unlike in the US, this UK law is standard and applies to all homeowners. 

Can You Build An Outbuilding Without Planning Permission?

An outbuilding is a structure that is separate from the main building on a property.

These are often sheds, cottages, detached garages, or barns. These are structures that are not connected in your house but are still within the confines of your property. And most of the time, outbuildings don’t need a building permit, and you can start working at it right away. 

If you’re from the US, the best advice to check the local government about its building codes. These laws are often posted on the local government unit’s official website. One nifty tool to use if you’re looking for a specific law is this one.

For UK citizens, all outbuildings are permitted development.

As long as your build is considered an “outbuilding”, you don’t need to worry about any permits. However, there is a limitation to this law: outbuildings that exceed the height of 4 meters and exceed 50% of the total curtilage area, this isn’t considered an outbuilding anymore. Check this page to see what structures are considered outbuildings. 

How High Can You Build An Outbuilding Without Planning Permission?

As mentioned before, there are different laws that govern the building code of each city in the United States. The maximum height of outbuilding structures that can be build without planning permission varies from each state. Here are some of the maximum outbuilding heights from six major cities. 

  • New York – 7 feet
  • Los Angeles – 12 feet
  • Chicago – 15 feet
  • Phoenix – 15 feet
  • San Antonio – 4 feet
  • San Jose – 12 feet

When building outbuildings in the UK, the maximum height permissible is 2.5 meters or about 8.2 feet. This will also need to be within two meters from the property boundary. The limit would be 4 meters or 13 feet when the building has a dual pitch. It is also worthy to note that these buildings should not exceed more than one story. 

Other Factors That Can Affect Permit Exemption

Not all outbuildings are exempted from building permit requirements. There are other factors that can make your property legible for a permit exemption. Here are the other factors that will affect your permit exemption legibility. 

1. Electricity, Mechanical, or Plumbing

If you’re planning to install electricity, mechanical parts, or a plumbing system, you will still need to take care of permits. Separate permits are needed for these areas, not only building permits. In the meantime, this would be a lesser hassle because one permit is off on your list. 

2. The Zoning 

Even if your structure meets all the requirements to avoid a building permit, you still need a zoning permit. This permit is necessary to regulate how a structure fits into the whole neighborhood. 

3. The Size And Dimension

There are two sets of size limits in each building exception. The height limit has already been explained in the previous paragraphs. Another size to consider is the dimension or the area of the structure. For example, in Austin, you must get a permit if you have a floor area greater than 120 sq ft. Even fences have this problem, but that’s for another story. 

4. Membership In Homeowners Association

And last but not least, you still have your homeowner’s association rules to think about. If your build will affect other builds in the neighborhood, it is likely that HOA would try to step in. For example, you’re in Austin, and you build an outbuilding with 15ft height and 120 sq ft area. 

At first glance, this is perfect. The measurements are all within the limits. Still, you might still need a permit if, for some reason, a neighbor doesn’t want what you’re doing. The HOA will be in charge of that. 

What Can You Build Without Planning Permission?

1. Garden Houses

Garden houses are small buildings used to grow food. These are often outbuilding structures made out of sheds and other winter-ready materials. When built on a large scale, you need to process a permit from your local agency. 

2. Tool Sheds

Tool sheds are often exempted from permits because it is only used for storage. A lot of people actually make their sheds a makeshift office because of this reason. Most states allow sheds below 120 sq ft to exist without a building permit.

3. Detached Garage

A detached garage is considered an outbuilding. This is due to the fact that a detached garage does not affect the structure and frame integrity of your house. However, this garage needs to be within the homeowner’s property. Detached garages are great if you don’t want to waste money and time in dealing with building permits. 

4. Playhouse

Playhouses are considered temporary structures, so there’s no reason to get a building permit out of it. To make sure you’re not missing out on any laws and regulations, check your municipality’s single structure requirement. Take note: a bigger playhouse would need a building permit. 

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