Building on your property: Are you within the law?

Legal / Monday, January 20th, 2020

So, you want to build a shed on your property – before you get out the hammer and nails, don’t be quick to assume that you can start the build. Laws differ from each state and city; if you construct a building without the correct permissions and permits, you may find yourself having to deconstruct it.

There are many things you need to take into consideration, not just the area you’re planning on building. The size of the structure also plays an important part. For example,in some areas in Virginia, you generally don’t need a permit for a shed that is less than 256 sq. feet. In this case, you wouldn’t need to visit the government office for a permit. However, some of the larger buildings availablemay challenge local zoning restrictions.

When you may be required to get a permit:

  • If you want to add electricity to your shed
  • The size of the building, as some spaces only allow for structures with specific measurements
  • If the building is planned to be used at a work or living space. In this instance, you will need to inform the local zoning department so the structure can be properly permitted and inspected
  • Think about where it is going to be placed; some local codes state how close a shed can be to fences, trees, property lines and other buildings. If you’re considering having the shed attached to your home, be sure to check if this is allowed as some areas do not permit this
  • Check in with the local neighbourhood; it may have its own regulations about outdoor buildings. If you live in a homeowner’s association-regulated home, it wouldn’t hurt to verify community rules.

What will you need to get your permit?

To successfully acquire a permit, you should take a copy of the plans for the shed, including the square footage, height, etc, as well as the application processing fee and a utility bill with your address on it. A permit can cost anywhere from $400 to $2,500.

Building permit vs zoning permit

While you may not need a building permit in some places, you still might require a zoning permit. A zoning permit decides where the shed can be placed, typically, it needs to be five  – 15 feet away from your property line (this is known as setbacks). If you are unsure of the setbacks in your area, visit your local county or city office.

If you’re in doubt about whether you need any sort of permit, it’s easier to enquire with at the local office than build your shed and then face a hefty fine for breaking the rules. Ensure to provide as much information when you apply for your permit; it will speed up the process along and you can rest happily knowing your shed is all within the law.

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