Can I Build Whatever I want on my Land? 

Owning land is undeniably one of the biggest achievements in life. By virtue of that, you can exercise ownership right as you please and indulge your imagination on the ideal structure to erect it. But as exciting as that is, can you really build whatever you want on your land?

No. You can’t build whatever you want on your land because there are construction-related laws that guide what you can do on land. These laws include land approval as a building site, zoning laws, building codes, permits and plans, ordinances, and covenants, all of which demand strict adherence. 

It would be best to familiarize yourself with these laws before a shovel hits the soil on your land. As a result, we’ll evaluate each of them here, especially how they affect land use. 

Construction-related Laws that Determines What You Can Do on a Land 

You’ll agree that it’d be chaotic if every landowner could build whatever they want, wherever they want. That’s why the United States Environmental Protection Agency states that the development and usage of every land should always suit local interest as much as personal interest. That’s why there are construction-related laws that guide activities on land. These laws include the following:

1. Lot Approval 

Lot approval is a procedure created to evaluate individual lots before any form of development begins on them. This means it’s mostly required for new construction, but you may also need it if you wish to make certain structural additions. Any structure erected on a parcel of Land without this approval is illegal and subject to city or county fines and demolition. 

If your lot is unapproved, you must find your APN and get a parcel map before the building commences. All these are at county development departments, where you’ll also get approval for construction. But, again, you can search online to know where to go in your location. 

2. Zoning 

Zoning is the division of Land depending on the specific use intended, which could be commercial, residential, or industrial. Zoning is the law that guides how land in cities or towns is utilized to guide urban growth and development. The relevant municipality in specific zones executes zoning. 

Apart from eliminating arbitrary use of Land, zoning also prevents the negative impact of new development on residents and businesses already existing in the area. Zoning ordinances determine the site size, height of the structures, density of development, location, and placement, among others. 

3. Ordinances & Covenants 

The ordinances and covenants of the local area of your land are another set of laws that can affect your build if not adhered to. So you must ensure your proposed construction complies with the local ordinance and covenant. This is because zonal approval for a certain structure isn’t enough to trounce local ordinances.

So it would help if you got documented approval from the local planning commission in your municipality. This serves as a “go-ahead,” and you can obtain it in the city hall or mayor’s office. You can visit the housing department or local government office if you can’t find it there.

4. Building Codes 

While zoning deals with land use, building codes deal with the physical structures that can be erected on the Land. Considering the fact that each state, city, county, or municipality across the US  has unique building codes, you must ensure strict compliance with the codes. Failure to do this may result in the suspension of the construction permit till you observe compliance with local codes. 

If your land area uses International Building Code, you should know it accompanies other codes. And while most building contractors naturally ensure compliance with these codes, you can also do personal research and double-check to avoid negative eventualities. If you can’t find the code for your city online, you can check the local building code department. 

5. Permits 

Permits are also required for construction in the United States. So whether you’re building from scratch or remodeling, you’ll need permits. But, as much as you can delegate this duty to construction engineers, owners can also take it upon themselves to get it. 

In addition to obtaining construction permits, certain jurisdictions in the US require trade-specific permits. For instance, all plumbing, mechanical, and electrical trades will also require permits. Once you obtain everything, you can begin construction as soon as possible. However, inspections follow every milestone to ensure you comply with permit regulations. 

Does All Construction Require Permit? 

This is a valid question to ask before going into any construction on a parcel of land. And to answer it, you don’t have to obtain permits for all construction projects on a parcel of land. Construction requiring building permits has different structures and configurations from what’s conventionally obtainable in the town. 

While this knowledge shouldn’t be reduced to guesses whenever you want to build on your land, you should always explore your municipality’s building codes to determine permitting requirements per project type. 

Many of these codes reflect the regional issues the government seeks to prevent. For instance, you’ll need to get a permit for building in Florida for the government to ensure you comply with safety considerations due to heat and humidity. Similarly, you’ll need permits for building in rural regions prone to fire outbreaks because you have to meet fireproofing requirements. 

How Long it Takes to Get Building Permit 

The waiting time to get a permit depends on the type of permit you’re filing for. For instance, if you require a permit for simple construction, you may get it on the spot. However, if the permit is for complex construction, it might take a couple of weeks. 

How Long Does Building Permit Last? 

The expiration date for building permits depends on the type obtained and where it was filed. For instance, a building permit in Seattle lasts at least 18 months, while it expires a year from the date obtained in New York. 

In Conclusion

Private land ownership isn’t an excuse for arbitrary actions on the land. Every land use must conform to state and local regulations. So ensure you know this before you begin construction on your land.