What Happens If You Build A Barn Without A Permit?

Eli Smith
by Eli Smith

Building a structure like a barn or shed doesn’t feel like as big of a deal as building a livable structure to many. However, Building Departments throughout the country value safety and expect you to comply when you build a barn. So, what happens if you build a barn without a permit?

You will receive a penalty if you fail to obtain a building permit before you build a barn. Local Building Departments charge $200-$500 per day that you continue to build a barn without a permit in many areas. Unique penalty fees may apply depending on where you live, and you will need to spend at least another $2,000 to obtain a retroactive permit.

Contact your local Building Department before you begin building a barn. It’s not worth it to pay up to several thousand dollars more in penalties when you neglect to get a permit. Follow along as we explore what happens if you build a barn without a permit.

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Do I Need a Permit to Build a Barn?

You need a permit to build a barn if it is 100 square feet or larger in most counties. Some areas require that you get a permit for a structure as small as 70 square feet or big as 120 square feet. Sheds typically measure 1,000-1,600 square feet, so you likely need a permit no matter where you live.

Contact your local Building Department and permit office to find out how much your permit will cost. Let them know the dimensions of your barn to make sure that the square footage requires a permit. You can expect to pay up $500-$2,000 for a permit to build a barn.

What Happens If You Build A Barn Without A Permit?

Your local Building Department will force you to cease work if you build a barn without a permit. They can also fine you for each day that you continue to work or fail to pay the permit fee. Fines can total $200-$500 per day plus a penalty fee in some cases.

The Building Department will still insist that you pay the permit fee on top of the penalty costs. For example, you may spend $4,000 or more between the penalties and the permit if you fail to comply within 2-3 days. That is why it is important that you obtain a permit before you begin construction on a barn to avoid excessive costs.

Can You Get a Retroactive Building Permit?

It is possible to get a retroactive building permit depending on where you live. You can obtain a retroactive permit the same way that you get one before construction inf you contact the Building Department. They will require you to submit important documents such as design drawings for electrical, plumbing, and mechanical work if there are any.

Provide accurate as-built drawings and or photos of the structure and report the square footage of the barn. The Building Department will likely send an inspector to verify details and ensure that the barn complies with local codes. Inspectors focus on the foundation and important structural aspects like the roof and walls.

Retroactive permits cost an average of $5,000, but they can cost as much as $8,000. The cost varies based on your municipality’s rules and whether or not they penalize you. You may spend as little as $2,000 for a retroactive permit, but it’s not worth the risk that you will occur penalties.

What Is The Statute Of Limitations On Building Code Violations?

If you decide to go ahead with the instructions, a building code violation can stay on your record for some time. It will depend on your state and the attorney at the time, but the typical wait time can be around two years.

If someone obtains an injury due to an accident, the exposure period can last forever. Doing so may cause you not to be allowed to build other structures. If you are in the construction business, you can expect your time in the industry to end.

How To Get Around Building Permits

Don’t. There is typically a reason for building permits existing, even when it isn’t apparent. It is entirely natural to ask why they have this permit there. If they don’t give you a good reason, it may give you an excellent reason to petition for its removal.

Do not think of a way to circumvent or hide from the system that will only brand you as a criminal. Instead, use the power of the masses to make a real change.

How Do You Get A Permit For Your Barn?

If you’ve found that the limitations are reasonable, its time to work towards getting that permit. Your first step will be to locate your zoning office. You can do so by searching on google.

Smaller towns may not have zoning offices, so try and call the local courthouse for further information. Otherwise, utilizing a combination of Google and state websites should help you narrow down the issues. Next, you will want to contact them and inform them about your project. The zoning officer will let you know what sort of permit you need and tell you whether your structure is acceptable.

However, you don’t want to rely on the zoning officer as your ultimate source. If you feel that their statements don’t sound quite right, consult a friend who has gone through the process before. Also, see if you cannot get a copy of the booklet they use on zoning limitations for barns. If there is no explicit reference to why they would deny your barn, consult the book with them going forward.

If the design needs to be approved by an architect, find out how your friends got through this process. You may also compare notes with a zoning officer from another district as needed.

The most important tool at your disposal is research. If you come into the office knowing the requirements behind your barn, the process will be much smoother.

Where Can I Build Without A Permit?

Some counties within states have yet to establish building permits. These states include the following:

  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Wyoming
  • Arkansas
  • Alabama
  • Hawaii

Building codes apply to any city location, but rural county areas not within city or town limits are less likely to have permit requirements. However, those laws are subject to change based on local conditions.

Also, moving to a location to get around safety requirements is not suggested.

Why Are Permits So Expensive?

Permits are from a variety of experts performing research on what makes a good structure. It requires an ample amount of experience in architecture and construction, resulting in a good deal of skill to create and update codes.

A barn has four walls, a floor, and the possibility of multiple levels. For a building not up to code, there are numerous areas your structure can fail. Add another tick to the expensive side if you plan on installing electricity in there.

Compare that to replacing a patio or a water heater at a single structure or location. If there is less to worry about, it requires a less expensive permit.

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Related Questions

What About Building A Pole Barn Without A Permit?

If you plan on building a pole barn, some locations do not require the same amount of permits. In this case, you will want to check with your local zoning office regardless. Just because you do not need a permit does not mean you should cut corners. Be sure to follow the best building practices and choose high-quality materials.Pole barns are held up by their walls’ quality, meaning you should be seeking high-quality sheet metal or wood. Some zoning locations will have access to design documents that can help you out.

What Happens If I Build A Garage Without A Permit?

If you decide to build a garage without a permit, you can expect those fines to increase. While most barns do not have electrical work, garages are typically a bit more complicated. Failing to build your garage up to code will cause code agencies to assume that your garage may catch fire. This increase in cost is because of the complicated electrical components that go inside of garages.Live in locations like Alabama, Wyoming, or North Dakota. You may get around it when living in rural areas. Always be sure to follow the best safety practices.

What Happens If You Build A Fence Without A Permit?

Depending on where you are from, city code requirements can regulate the height and materials used in your chosen fence. In some locations, they can even control the fencing style, but this is more likely to come from a homeowner’s association (HOA).Typically, fence permits are among the least expensive permits you can purchase. It is because the fence typically doesn’t have the same rigorous safety protocols of barns or otherwise.If you decide upon making this a DIY project, be sure you have your plans set up before submitting it. Zoning officials look for any reason they can to deny your project. It is in their job description.Hiring a fence installer typically circumvents some of this issue. These professionals have pre-approved fence structures. You will still have to acquire a permit before beginning but check with your zoning officer to be sure whether you need one.

Eli Smith
Eli Smith

I'm a guy who becomes the expert of whatever I stumble upon, writing-wise. I've written tons about cool home products, home improvement, and smart technology in the home. I'm also the proud father of a kiddo born on new years, making my holidays very busy.

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