Permits required for back yard improvements?

7 Replies

Hello, we decided to build a tree fort in the back yard for our oldest son, unfortunately the city building inspector has come round and hit us with a swathe of permits! Height restrictions, neighborhood requirements, building permits, etc. The list goes on and on. Are there any workarounds to some of the more common permits that I am missing? Any loopholes that can be exploited to remove some of the red tape on back yard improvements?

Nope.  If you've been caught you're on their radar.  Plead ignorance, beg forgiveness, and offer to do whatever they want you to do to be in compliance.   Have a discusion with someone in the building department and maybe the planning/zoning department about what you want to do and ask what permits and approvals are needed.  If the requirements are onerous, then ask what you could do to reduce the requirements.  For instance, around here a shed that's 120 sq.ft. or less does not require a permit.  Guess what size my shed is?  OTOH, we have a deck in the back yard with a pergola-style top and I had to get both a building permit and zoning approval to build it.  Its not the end of the world, just a process you have to work through.  And some money.

Doesn't your son have anxiety and his physician recommended a quiet retreat that he go to when stressed?

@Anna McGill

@Jon Holdman is spot on with what he said.   Have a conversation with the building permit dept now that you need permits.  They will walk you through the process and what you need. The inspector doesn't care if its medically required that @Bettina F. is trying to refer to and that excuse won't fly with them.  They want to make sure its safe for life safety reasons typically which will trump a medical retreat reason.  Don't piss them off any more and show you want to make it right even if you don't agree with it.  It will only make matters worse for you on this losing battle that you need to comply with.

i work in the building dept. i can tell you that thing must be pretty big and tall. i bet a neighbor ratted you out.

i say you will need to tear it down. it is prolly unsafe.

if you want to keep it submit some plans. showing structural and how to build it .
call it a shed or something

@Anna McGill  use this as a learning experience for your kid . have the kid work with you thru the permitting process . Explain to them you may not win .   

   Now read up on your building codes , there may be something in it about "temporary structures " see if permits are needed for swing sets or sand boxes .  You could tell them its a temporary deer stand for hunting .  odds are you will hit a brick wall , but give it your best shot . 

There was a guy near me who built a shed at his house , he got busted and ccouldnt get a permit due to setbacks and a bunch of other dumb rules . So he bought an old trailer , got tags on it . He raised the shed up and mounted it on the tagged trailer .  He was now legal , all he had to do was renew the tags every 2 years . 

Your best bet is to find a structural engineer sympathetic to your cause and have them sign off on the construction.

Most building departments have a caveat in their building codes that allows a transfer of liability from the building department to the professional engineer.

I doubt you can have it installed as playground equipment if its in a tree and some towns require permits for that too. i would bet its a neighbor and you need to either tear it out or get it permitted. We had one for our kids in NJ but the neighborhood didnt have a lot of rule enforcers and it was set way back. Not sure how to make a tree house that meets buiilding code, what is the point of a treehouse if you need a staircase to code?

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