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Building Without a Permit

Small homes without building permit

Building without a permit for building

Back in the days of our grandfathers, getting  planning permission wasn’t part of the routine. You could build anything you wanted (at your own risk), as long as it was on your own property. Building without a permit was absoultely common. It was certainly in your interest to build in a way that did not anger your neighbours back then, as the only governing power that controlled the building schemes were primarily unwritten laws and silent agreements among neighbours. The only exceptions were areas owned by the city and government, and public buildings which were subject to strict safety rules. But in modern world’s technological boom, the rules need to be stricter for various reasons ranging from financial laws up to the most important – safety. In this article, we take a closer look at building regulations and the problem of planning permission.

Can I build my own house without the government’s permission?

step by step guide how to build a tiny houseThis question can be answered only by a well-informed expert on the legislature in your area, ideally a lawyer, or a government official. This is where you want to go in the first place. Government officials are probably the best option, as they are bound by the law to give you all necessary information. It is also advisable to ensure good relations with these people as you will be meeting them several times.

In the “states of the North”, China, Russia, EU, USA as well as Australia and New Zealand, there are various strict building codes that regulate our freedom of building in many ways. The laws are not the same for all countries; each country has their own set of regulations that you need to keep. Sometimes, there are even areas that have their own regulations.

We can say, however, that legislature regulates only buildings of certain size and height. This is usually measured by the build-up area and the topmost point of the roof. This means that you do not need a planning permission for buildings that do not reach the given parameters. Put simply, as long as your building does not reach a certain size and build-up area given by the law, you do not need to ask for permission, because the building is so small that the law does not class it as a building. The size entered by governments is around 270 ft² / 25 square metres in maximum and the height of the topmost point of roof up to 16 ft 5in / 5 metres.

The rules for buildings with size up to 25 square metres of build-up area

As mentioned above, if your house is smaller than the given parameters for buildings to count as a house, you do not need to ask anybody for permission to build it. So for example, if your want to build a house which takes up the area of 5 x 5 metres, and is not taller than 5 m, it doesn’t count as a house and therefore you can build it without the need for a permit. 5 metres of height is enough for two storeys or for a house with attic. Your house may not have the tallest ceilings, but it will still make for perfectly comfortable living, unless, of course, you belong to the 1% of population that allegedly owns 99% of all the world’s financial capital. In short, the area of 5 x 5 metres of floor and up to 5 metres of height is enough space for a smaller hut or wooden cabin which can sleep up to 5 people, if you pay attention to all details and use the space efficiently. All the tips and tricks for efficient building are in the book How to Build a Tiny House by Joshua Woodsman. In the book, you will find many tips and tricks for space saving as well as building tips for proper building structure and safety tips, like how to construct a foldable bed.

Most of the buildings from our product range are designed to fit to the category of ‘non-buildings’, to minimise the bureaucracy around house building that usually arises with the process. Our flagship products like Yvonne, Marlene, Anita or Dolores, are designed for lifelong living. Also, Luisa provides full comfort, and includes a bathroom, a heating system and a kitchen, all within the area of 14 square metres. Jane, who takes up just about the same area provides even more space for its inhabitants. Thanks to efficient use of underroof area, Jane has a separate bedroom and living room, like it is in Sofia. Most of our tiny house plans have a spacious porch. What is more, all of our blueprints are designed to be built without the need of any special professional help. You can build them all by yourself. With this knowledge, there is only one thing you need to do: start building. It has never been easier. Thanks to our step-by-step guide to DIY house plans, How to…, you too can become an architect.

step by step guide how to build a tiny house
Our DIY guide for building without a permit

Advantages of building without permission

The unquestionable advantage of building without permission is the freedom from all bureaucracy connected with applying for planning permission. This means you can avoid all the queues and start building without further ado. You don’t need to gather any special papers for government officials, all you need is to make sure the building does not exceed the given size limits. It is still recommended to ensure that there is no exception to the general regulations and that there are no different laws in the area you wish to build your dream house.

Another big advantage is that you do not need to prepare and construct all the official legal letters, you do not need a professional licensed architect to prepare your project. This does not mean, however, that you won’t need any floorplan at all. In fact, it is always necessary to have an exactly measured floorplan. It’s important for both safety reasons and also, you want to make sure that your building is within the permitted size. Provide yourself with all needed measure tools from

The big disadvantage connected with building permissions is the time pressure. You always have to make sure that you enter all necessary documents within given dates. With smaller-house plans, you are spared all this bureaucratic madness. You also do not need to enter any building log, which you would be normally asked to record, and you’re not subject to government inspections.

Building a cabin without a permit

When it comes to building garden houses, tool sheds or other constructions, you usually do not need any specific permit. However, it is still polite to ask your neighbours for  permission. Especially if the building may somehow cause changes that may affect their lives, like block the view or causing too much shade etc. There is also an unwritten rule that you must not build closer than 2 metres from the borders of your owned property, but such rule applies for all buildings.

Products that count as buildings

There is also another solution. Pre-fabricated houses, mobile homes, and even caravans do not fall under the category of ‘buildings for living’ as long as they are not fixed to the ground. Preconstructed houses are ubiquitous and very popular. These designs are mostly wooden houses, but there are also designs based on typical steel-box containers. You order the house, they deliver it to you and as long as the house does not touch the ground, but stands on wheels like a caravan, for example, you do not need to trouble yourself with the building permits. In this way, it counts as a movable object and not as a building.

The same applies to mobile homes, that stand on wheels; they too are a movable object. You can hook it to your car and that’s it, you can carry it anywhere with you. We are, in fact, working on such project at the moment. Visit this link. The most commonly used name for mobile homes used in countries outside of the anglophone world is ‘mobilheim’ and the average cost is around 5,000 EUR.


The last option on our list of alternative living are boathouses. The most prominent architect in Czech Republic, Martin Rajniš, promises that you can build your boathouse within the price range of 300,000 CZK / 15K usd. He presents his house as a project built in an inundation area. These areas are high-risk areas and so their prices are very low compared to other areas. Since he is building a houseboat, his living is prepared for extreme conditions and thus he has nothing to fear. The house does not lay on the ground. It is standing on floating barrels which will float the boat in case of floods. The house must be anchored, however, and it must be ensured that it is protected against floating objects in case of floods.

Houses like these are often found in centres of big cities with cheap parking stands for floating objects. You can thus live at quite low expenses. Yet from the legal point of view, houseboats do not count as building made for long-term living, but it is understood as a means of transport. Hence you again avoid the trouble with building permits.

Those are all the necessary basics that you need to know before you start building.

Remember, sharing is caring. Feel free to share this piece of information with your friends, DIY building enthusiasts, facebook, whatever. It is time we made the stand against unnecessary regulations imposed on us from the government and took a step towards liberty and comfortable living. Stay tuned for more articles about easy DIY tiny houses.

8 thoughts on “Building Without a Permit

  1. I want to build a small house with living space of 12 x 20 and a 4 foot porch on my land in New Mexico. Does the size requirement remain the same?

    1. Hi,

      we do not know, you must contact your building authority.


  2. I want to build a 16x16x16 foot dwelling, or shed or cabin. Am I in my legal rights to build this, on my 20 acres in Kern county, California, USA? Without obtaining a permit?

    1. I don’t know, contact an expert from your location.

  3. I’m thinking of building a off-grid house in Northern New Mexico. Does the 270 square feet include any Lofts that I may put up above the main floor? Theoretically I could end up with 540 square feet?
    Thank you Tom

    1. Hello Tom,
      We offer many houses with a small sleeping area.
      for example our cabin with loft plans

  4. Is 270 square feet also in USA I live in northern Virginia is it the same for the size here

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