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Do You Need A Planning Permit For A Backyard Office?

If your heart is set on a sweet she-shed or backyard workspace and you are already choosing your paint colors and furnishings, it is vital that you do not let your project get ahead of any local planning laws in place. 

Many garden office companies describe their buildings as being compliant with planning laws or not requiring any planning permissions at all.

So, do you need a planning permit for a backyard office?

Depending on where you live, local planning and zoning by-laws mean you need to acquire permits even for putting up a shed. Making assumptions of what you can and can’t do could end up being costly and even lead to the loss of your backyard office. Building laws also have to be adhered to, to avoid badly constructed buildings.

In this article, we will look at whether planning or building permits will be required for a backyard office and why it’s essential to make sure that your structure complies with local planning rules. 

Key Planning Codes You For Backyard Offices Builds

In the United States, most of the regulations for building structures will come under one of two codes. You may need one or both to lawfully erect your workspace. 

  1. Zoning Codes

This legislation oversees how neighborhoods, districts, and communities are structured: their services and amenities and the type and use of buildings within them. Zoning code is therefore concerned with how the building you intend to erect will be used. Counties and districts have different codes that specify how buildings within them may be used for example, residential versus commercial. You may need a zoning permit if you are seeking to operate a building from your home office that receives clients or operates over long or antisocial hours. To obtain a zoning permit you will need to supply site and building plans. 

  1. Building Codes

Building Codes address the standards of construction that your garden office must meet to be safe for use. Your local planning department will review detailed building plans to ensure that your structure is compliant with their specified standards and also meets fire and any other relevant code. 

Heritage areas neighborhoods and properties over 50 years old may be subject to even more stringent regulations than those contained in the building and zoning codes.

This is because development within these designated districts needs to be sympathetic to the existing architecture and landscape that is being preserved because of its natural beauty or historic significance. 

Gated communities or leaseholds may also have a committee or board that will want to scrutinize building plans and assess their impact on other residents. 

Take a look at this video to see exactly why these laws and permits must be obtained!

Backyard OfficePlanning Permits And The Law

You may feel that a low-rise low-profile workspace in the yard won’t be treading on anyone’s toes, and besides, who needs to know. But it is important to recognize that your local planning laws are entirely and actively enforced for even minor infractions.

Local government officials have the power to force you to cease and desist building, move your structure or even demolish it, and if you fail to comply they will come and do it for you and send you the bill.

For this reason, it is better to save yourself the heartache of watching your office being razed and ensure that you have the correct permits in place ahead of time.

How To Secure A Planning Permit For An Outdoor Office 

Building and zoning codes vary massively across the USA and even within states.

You will, therefore, need to follow the guidance from your local Building Department. It is well worth making contact with them sooner rather than later. They will be able to advise you on the feasibility of your building project and you may save on the costs of remedying plans if you have a consultation before you start.

Another initial step is to approach your local homeowners’ association about your proposed plans. They are able to provide not only advice but support your proposed project. 

You will need to submit an application. Seek to read everything carefully, be honest, and supply the Building Department with as much information as possible, including, of course, your building and site plans. Omissions in your application will lead to delays. Patience is key as these government departments are often busy. 

Once approved you may freely proceed with the workspace build, but remember that you may need to welcome an inspector to your property to ensure that your structure is fully compliant. It is always best to avoid last-minute changes to your build as this could comprise your permit. 

Can I Get Help With Obtaining A Building And Zoning Permit?

Getting advice and assistance can sometimes be key to having success in securing your required permits. 

  • Reputable garden office specialists often have familiarity with zoning and building codes and can produce professionally drafted designs and plans that will satisfy most local requirements.
  • Architects can be hired to provide advice, guidance, and create a custom design for your backyard office. A benefit of working with an architect is that they can amend your garden office design if the Buildings Department requires changes. 
  • Garden office owners who have been through the process of obtaining a permit are also a great source of advice and insights into handling the application process. If you work with a company they may put you in touch with clients they have worked within your locality.

Local Building Codes For Outdoor Offices

This hilarious video of epic shed fails should help you understand why planning and building regulations are vital for the safe erection of a garden workspace.  But seriously, poorly constructed buildings on your land can be extremely hazardous and create problems like:

  • Collapse
  • Storm damage
  • Subsidence
  • Fire
  • Infestation
  • Damp
  • Damage to neighboring property

Rigorous building standards are in place to protect the public from the dangers of badly constructed buildings.

In the past there have been instances of catastrophic loss of life due to fire or collapse because buildings were unsafe, therefore maintaining standards for where and how buildings like your garden office are put up ensures that these risks are kept to an absolute minimum.

Local building codes are in place not only to ensure the safety of property owners and their local community but also to preserve the order and arrangement of properties within communities and ensure areas and neighborhoods are used for the purposes for which they were intended.

It is important that your garden studio also does not infringe on these points, even if properly constructed.

Just as it would sound ludicrous to build a skyscraper in the middle of a rural cattle ranch, so is erecting a garden office, that is used for active business, day and night with music playing in a quiet suburban street. 

In Conclusion

We hope we have been able to provide you with the basics of obtaining a building permit for your garden office.

It may seem like more of a daunting process than it actually is, but it is clearly necessary to ensure the structure you build is habitable and suitable for your area. Always research your local codes, as we mentioned above, building and zoning codes do vary wildly between states and counties.

In some places, (apparently a number of obscure counties in Missouri or unorganized townships) you may not need a permit at all. Either way, the most important thing is that you end up with a lawfully erected and habitable office to enjoy.