Risks When Building Without A Permit
Some do not even require a zoning permit or decision. Although this sounds like good news, it does bring certain risks.
Building authorities issue zoning permits and decisions for several reasons: to decide whether a building or other structures may be built or altered, to determine how a particular area may be used and to set out how vital interests in a particular area should be protected. Viewed from this perspective, all construction is subject to approval by the building authority. As such, in zoning proceedings certain requirements may be imposed long before the developer (this term includes individuals who plan to build, be in charge of the paperwork and be responsible for the construction themselves) applies for a construction permit or before he notifies the building authority of his intentions. The first thing developers should be aware of are the requirements imposed by the zoning or regulatory plan setting forth the maximum permitted built-up area and its intended purpose. For example, a factory or shop cannot be built in an area designated for residential homes, where no more than 20% of the land plot can be built up. Moreover, developers are required to follow zoning rules applicable to the building’s appearance, e.g. in rural areas houses and buildings are usually required to have a gable (sloping) roof.
In construction proceedings, the building authority focuses on whether the structure meets certain technical requirements, such as mechanical and stability requirements, fire prevention and health, safety & environmental requirements, noise-level requirements, and also whether it is economical in terms of energy and heat consumption. This issue has received a lot of attention lately (especially in connection with the duty for an “energy label” to be issued for the building) and is based on the requirement that energy be used efficiently and sustainably. Developers must choose materials, such as masonry, insulation, windows and doors, etc., that meet the authority’s strict requirements.
Watch Out for Practical Pitfalls
Although the law exempts certain structures from the above procedures, developers cannot simply disregard zoning requirements nor can the building fail to meet statutory construction requirements.
On one hand, the Construction Act relieves developers from having to go through zoning and construction proceedings, but on the other, the developer remains fully responsible for meeting all requirements before and during construction. This duty is imposed on developers even in cases where a construction permit or notification is not required. In those cases the legislation that imposes the requirements outlined above must still be followed.
Developers should, among other things, ensure that the building is stable and can resist adverse weather conditions so that it does not collapse and/or jeopardize neighbouring buildings. Buildings that do not require a building permit or notification include auxiliary structures for family homes, such as garden sheds, pergolas, patios, etc. But even in those cases, consideration must be given to the structure’s stability, materials and build quality, for example, whether the roofing is properly attached.
Developers should also ensure that the structure serves the purpose for which it was built and that the planned lifetime of the construction corresponds with this. For example, swimming pools and other recreational structures should not be built from unsuitable materials with a lifetime of only a few months.
Moreover, developers must obey health & safety and environmental restrictions and ensure that hazardous materials such as asbestos are not used.
Ignorance of the regulations may, after all, mean more problems for the developer than the zoning or construction proceedings ever posed, since inadequacies could result in an order to remove the structure altogether. Any initial savings associated with planning the construction (especially the plans needed for the construction proceedings) may very easily turn out to be false economy.