Dreaming of building your own home or embarking on a renovation project is an exciting endeavor. However, it's crucial to remember that the journey to your dream home is paved with legal obligations and considerations. To ensure a successful and stress-free construction process, you need to familiarize yourself with the construction-related laws that govern your project. This article highlights the key legal aspects to address before you start building or renovating your home.
Owning a piece of land is just the beginning. You must ensure that your lot is an approved building site. Existing structures on the property may not necessarily be legal, and laws can change over time. Start by obtaining the parcel map and finding your Assessor's Parcel Number (APN). This information is accessible through various sources, including the county courthouse, the county recorder's office, city hall, or the tax assessor's office. By verifying your lot's legality, you can avoid costly setbacks later in the construction process.
Before a property owner can build or subdivide, a lot must meet the requirements of a legal lot. As a general rule, new residences are required to be designed and constructed in accordance with the current state and county adopted energy codes, water and sewer district requirements, public road access requirements, site pre-construction preparation work as needed, etc.
Zoning laws dictate how land can be used and what types of structures are allowed on the property. Public access to zoning information is readily available. Contact your local zoning office or city hall to obtain the relevant zoning information for your lot. Understanding these regulations is crucial to ensure your desired project aligns with local zoning rules. Obtaining the necessary permissions is a preliminary step before applying for building permits.
Zoning categories and symbols vary among communities. Residential zones for single family houses marked as Single Family Residences (SFR) and local governments use letters of the alphabet as codes to identify the use allowed in a physical geographic area. And for single family homes it's - R - for residential building.
Residential zoning can cover issues such as whether mobile homes can be placed on the property and the number of structures allowed on a certain property.
Zoning laws typically limit the type of animals allowed at a residence. Domestic pets such as dogs, birds, and cats are generally not regulated, but chickens, sheep, horses, llamas, pigs, and cows are subject to certain requirements. Many laws prohibit keeping these farm animals in residential neighborhoods. Others limit the number of animals based on the size of the property. Here are the alphabet codes to identify the use allowed in a physical geographic area - such as:
R - for residential buildings
C- for commercial
I - for industrial
These symbols are usually paired with a number. The number can specify the level of use, or it may indicate a certain amount of acreage or square footage for that particular property.
Please also be aware, that some zoning ordinances prohibit all in-home businesses in residential areas. Others limit the type of business and business hours. They may also require separate parking and entrance facilities. Rules regarding home-based businesses for condominiums are typically even more restrictive than private residences.
Ordinances and Covenants
Local ordinances and covenants may impose specific restrictions on your construction project. Even seemingly minor rules can disrupt your plans. You should consult with your local planning commission or commissioner to ensure compliance with these regulations. If you're part of a homeowners association (HOA), review neighborhood covenants to guarantee that your project aligns with their guidelines. While HOA bylaws may not be publicly recorded, you can typically access this information through the county assessor's office.
Building codes govern the construction of physical structures, ensuring safety and compliance with established standards. In many countries, including the United States, the International Building Code (IBC) serves as the standard for construction. Building codes encompass aspects such as fire prevention and reference other codes like the International Plumbing Code and the National Electric Code. It is the responsibility of your project's engineer, builder, or contractor to adhere to these codes. However, conducting your research to ensure compliance is also essential.
Permits and Plans
In most places, you'll need to get a building permit or permission from the city or county in order to build on the land you buy. Find out whether this will be the case for your property, and make sure that the permit is in place before you begin.
Before any construction work begins, you must obtain the necessary building permits. These permits require the submission of detailed plans to your local code office. These plans should include drawings of the structure, measurements, floor plans, exterior materials, and elevation views. FEMA provides a helpful checklist to guide you through the permitting and approval process. It's crucial to understand that the person who obtains the permit is considered the contractor and is held accountable for construction-related damages. Therefore, if you're working with a contractor, clarify who will handle the permitting process. Remember that different systems may require various permits, such as plumbing, electrical, mechanical, or grading permits, depending on the nature of your project.
While obtaining permits may seem like a bureaucratic hassle, they are essential for a successful construction project. You should budget both time and costs for permits, as they can affect your project timeline and expenses. Compliance with all the necessary legal steps is critical to ensuring your project proceeds smoothly. Regular communication with all parties involved, including your builder, architect, or contractor, is key to avoiding legal complications.
Getting a Building Permit
When it comes to securing a building permit for your construction project, there are several key steps to follow:
Research: Begin by gathering essential property information. This will provide you with a solid foundation for planning your project. You can access this information through various sources, including local government records.
Start Permit Application: Initiate the permit application process. In many cities and states, you can conveniently do this online by completing the Building & Land Use Pre-Application. This step marks the beginning of the official permitting process.
Submit Plans: After starting your application, you will need to submit your project plans for review. This step is crucial as it allows the relevant authorities to screen your project and ensure that it complies with all applicable regulations and codes.
Get Permit: Once your project has been reviewed, approved, and all necessary fees have been paid, you will receive your building permit. This permit grants you the legal authority to commence and carry out your construction project in compliance with the established regulations.
By following these steps, you'll navigate the process of obtaining a building permit more smoothly and ensure that your construction project proceeds legally and smoothly.
Building your dream home or renovating your existing property is a fulfilling endeavor, but it's essential to navigate the legal requirements thoughtfully. By familiarizing yourself with lot approval, zoning regulations, ordinances, covenants, building codes, and the permitting process, you can build your home while complying with all relevant laws. This diligence ensures that your project stays on track and that you can enjoy your dream home without legal hassles down the road. Remember, a well-informed and compliant approach from the outset is the path to success in building your dream home.