Can I Build a Shed Without Getting a Permit?


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Building a shed on your property can be a fun and provide you with a place to store items or even use it for other personal or business reasons. A with anything you try to build having the proper permit in place is often necessary.

In many localities, you need a permit for building most kinds of structures. While some building authorities don’t require a permit for smaller sheds, if you want to run electricity or plumbing to your shed, you definitely will require a permit for that, whatever the size. Some authorities require a permit if you want to pour concrete.

Besides the permit, there may be zoning restrictions, such as how far from the property lines the shed has to be, how far from other buildings, and other considerations. Utility companies may have easements for sewer lines or the area under utility lines, preventing your building on them.

Unless you live in a very rural area with no restrictions, you should check to see if you’ll need a permit and what documentation you’ll need to present to get approval for your shed. You might need to provide detailed plans with measurements, type of foundation and other items. If you plan to add electricity or plumbing, you’ll need to provide schematics for those as well. You can also find out about any zoning restrictions at the same time.

The bottom line is that different localities have different requirements for building permits and zoning restrictions, so it’s vital that you check with the permitting authority before you start your project. Most municipalities have websites that you can check for general requirements but it’s best to actually call. The building authority may ask you questions you hadn’t thought of to decide if you will need a permit.

In addition, if you live in a homeowner’s association area, there may be other limitations on shed placement and even appearance. For instance, some HOAs insist that a raised shed on blocks has to have skirting to cover up the concrete blocks. Some also have further restrictions on placement, such as placing the shed in the back yard, perhaps even out of sight of the street. Get more information by reading my article Do You Require a Building Permit For a Storage Shed?

Do I Need a Permit for a Shed on My Own Property?

Any property that exists within the purview of a building authority may need a permit. These permits are issued for a reason. They require approval of the building plans to ensure that the building will adhere to local buildings codes for safety and fire purposes.

Electrical and plumbing codes are likewise meant for safety purposes. In addition, once your plans are approved, you may need an inspector to sign off on your build or on phases of your build. If you plan to run electricity or plumbing to your shed, you will definitely need a permit.

An electrical inspector will examine all your wiring, outlets and switches, and the manner in which the electricity is run to the shed. Likewise, a plumbing inspector will inspect your piping and connections and the way wastewater is handled.

There are also a few other situations that dictate obtaining a permit. If there is another shed on the property, you live in a hazardous or environmentally sensitive area, or you plan to use the shed for living or sleeping space or to run business activities, you probably will need a permit. Your local authority may have other requirements.

Is There a Maximum Shed Size Without a Permit?

In many locations, you can build a shed up to 100 square feet without a permit, or a 10 x 10. Some places allow you to build a shed up to 200 square feet without needed a permit, while others lower the limit to 60 square feet.

There also may be instances that while the shed’s square footage does not require a permit, the height of the roof might necessitate having one. That being said, different locations have different requirements, so checking with the building authority is a must.

Even if you don’t plan to install plumbing or electricity, some building authorities may require a permit for the type of foundation you plan on having, regardless of the shed size. In some places, having a septic system on the property will necessitate your getting a building permit for the shed.

Be aware that if you have a small lot you may run into other problems, as some municipalities have restrictions stating that the shed’s footprint can’t be larger than a certain percentage of the lot size.

What Will I Need to Obtain a Permit?

Again, different localities will have different requirements for this, but generally, you’ll have to put all your contact information on the application. You’ll also need to know the square footage of the shed and you might need to submit building plans. You will need to submit a site plan so the building authority can check to see that the shed is not built where it shouldn’t be.

You will probably pay the permit fee when submitting your application. If your plan is rejected, you can find out the reasons, revise your plans and resubmit your application. Applications for smaller projects such as your shed build will probably take only a couple of days, depending on the number of permits waiting for approval.

Even if you don’t need a building permit, you probably will need a zoning permit. The site plan you submit for this should include distances between the shed and property lines, fencing, and other buildings on the property. The zoning authority will have information on any easements that may cross your property.

These permits usually don’t cost very much. Many municipalities price them as a percentage of the cost of your build. If the location you plan for your shed exists in a floodplain or other environmentally challenged location, you may have to pay for an extra permit.

Are There Any Consequences for Not Getting a Permit?

You may think that nobody will know if you are building your shed without a permit, but think again. You will need to display your permit near the work while it is ongoing until an inspector signs off on the job. A homeowner’s association will insist on your getting any needed permits.

Besides, all it takes is one neighbor who thinks his job is to oversee the neighborhood knowing that you need a permit, not seeing one posted while you’re building, and making a phone call to ruin your plans.

If you need a permit and don’t get one before building a shed or even starting the build, getting caught can get really expensive. Depending on your location, fines may range from $250 per day to $2,500 per day until you get that permit. Some areas assess a flat fine, then penalize you further if you don’t get the permit. Some areas will even give you some jail time.

While a court may be lenient if you didn’t know you needed a permit, that defense rarely works. The old adage “Ignorance is no excuse” will apply here. If you don’t get a required permit and you are caught, the best thing to do is go ahead and get the needed permit or permits as soon as possible. If you go to court to try to fight the charge, you may well have to pay court or other legal fees along with the fine and possible jail sentence.

Not only that, in cases in which the homeowner really asks for trouble and simply ignores the building authority notice or court order, the municipality may issue a lien on his house. If he doesn’t pay that amount promptly, the municipality actually has the authority to take the property and force him to sell it to pay the amount owed. That doesn’t happen very often, but it’s never a good idea to try the patience of a court or other government entity.

As if all that isn’t bad enough, having a lien on a home will affect your credit rating, which may in turn cause your homeowner’s insurance rate to go up. In the case of an insurance claim, such as a house fire, the building authority will get paid before you do.

Since the building authority is a government entity and most building codes are issued by the state, the lien may be well be satisfied before your mortgage holder gets paid. If it was your shed that caught fire, once the insurance company finds out that you built your shed without a needed permit, they may deny the claim entirely.

How Much Does a Permit for a Shed Cost?

The cost of a building permit depends on the size of the shed and whether plumbing or electricity will be involved. Permits run from $250 to $2,000. The area in which you live also has an effect on the cost. A small village will probably charge less than a large city for the same type of permit.

Is There Any Way to Build Without Requiring a Permit?

You can build a shed without a permit if you find out the requirements from your local building authority and adhering to them. This means building a small shed within its limits and restricting your foundation to the types specified. Even though you may not need a building permit you will still have to follow all zoning restrictions as to where you plan to locate your shed, and any additional restrictions placed on the project by a homeowner’s association.

Do I Need a Permit for a Shed Already Built?

Prefab sheds are usually treated as a build as regards permitting requirements, but again, this will depend on your local codes and restrictions. Even if a prefab shed doesn’t require a permit in your area to install, your proposed foundation may require one. As with building a shed, you will likely need a zoning permit.

Will I Need to Get a Permit for My Shed?

If you plan to run electricity or plumbing to your shed, you already know you will need a permit. You will need to check with your building authority to find out what their size limits are for a shed without a permit and other restrictions that might be in place, such as the type of foundation.

It would be a good idea to already have plans drawn, as you will need to submit them to obtain your permit. In any case, if your locality requires permits for building, they probably require zoning permits, and you will need one of those.

Do I Need a Permit If My Shed is On Skids?

Sheds built on skids are usually designated as temporary structures, and so do not need a building permit. That being said, it’s always better to check. You still will have to find out about all zoning and easement restrictions and abide by them. You can read my article How to Build a Portable Shed on Skids to see if that’s an option for you.

Is There a Minimum Size That Won’t Require a Permit?

Usually, a shed up to 100 to 120 square feet will not require a permit. The limitation varies from place to place. Any size lower than the maximum size will be allowed without a building permit but you still may need a zoning permit.

Getting a building permit does add to the cost of your shed. You may also be anxious to start your build and having to wait for the permit really can hold up your project, especially if there is a backlog of permits to be approved and you have to wait longer than usual.

Still, it’s much better to go through the aggravation of waiting to schedule your concrete pour or truss delivery for a few days than to suffer the consequences of building without permission. Fines will cost far more than the permit would have.

Conclusion

Even if you don’t need a building permit, if you don’t get a zoning permit and violate any of their restrictions with regards to placement, the zoning authority can force you to move your shed to another location. If you have built a large shed or have a concrete foundation, this will cost you far more than the permit would have cost.

It doesn’t take long to make a call and find out if you need any permits and what you will need to submit and what forms to fill out to apply for them. It’s just good common sense to make that call. It’s likely you’ll need a permit and will save you a lot of headaches, however you may not need plans too build a shed. Read my article Can You Build a Shed Without Plans? for more information.

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