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Many inside the door of a backyard shed using it as an office
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RE Q&A: Need a Permit to Build a Shed?

A homeowner who wanted a backyard shed secured HOA approval and went to buy it, but the salesperson said that they needed a building permit. Is that right?

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Question: We decided to put a shed on our property so we can stop paying for self-storage. We found a shed we liked and even got our association to approve it. When we went to purchase our shed, the store told us we would need a permit, and we had to find a spot for the shed within the setback.

We are confused about what to do next. Can you give us some direction? – Cindy

Answer: Most municipalities require that you get a permit when performing certain repairs or improvements on your property, such as roof repairs, installing an air conditioner, putting up a shed or other structure, or even cutting down a tree.

A permit is what it sounds like – permission from your local government. Besides generating revenue, the permitting process, which involves reviewing your plans and inspecting the work to ensure the building code was adhered to, helps ensure your safety and maintain your community’s character.

Many properties, especially those within planned communities, are subject to “setbacks,” which require structures to be set back a certain distance from the property line. Setbacks, especially when combined with easements, such as those for power and water lines, can make finding a spot to put your shed a challenge. You will need to refer to a land survey to figure things out.

Fortunately, you should have gotten a survey when you purchased the property, so look through your closing paperwork to find it. Most cities will allow an older survey for this purpose, but if not, or if you cannot find yours, you will need to complete another one as part of the project.

Even if you are using a contractor for the work, it is your responsibility to follow the rules. Some contractors will tell you to get the work done without a permit to save time and money, but if the authorities get wind of it, you can be fined and even asked to remove the shed. This happens enough that companies specialize in working with your city to resolve issues with unpermitted work.

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