Does a She Shed Need a Permit?

It’s very common these days to hear your friends talking about building She Sheds, Bar Sheds, Garden Houses and Man Caves. These structures have even been featured on insurance commercials. Understanding, however, if your shed will qualify as an independent residential structure according to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development or fall under local zoning rules is important to your understanding of permits and payments required to build such a structure on your property.

Accessory Dwelling Units

What is an accessory dwelling unit? An accessory dwelling unit is sometimes also called a guest house, in-law suite, basement apartment, pool house or carriage house. Basically, an ADU is a separate living space that has a dedicated kitchen and bathroom and is capable of existing independently of any main housing unit on the same property. An ADU can be within, attached or fully detached from the main housing unit.

Enhanced Sheds

This means that most she sheds, bar sheds, garden houses and man caves do not qualify as ADUs. Most of these enhanced sheds are built as quiet retreats from the world, offering sometimes luxurious decor or bar-mimicking atmosphere. Most cannot function independently of the main housing unit on the property. If your enhanced shed, though, does have its own kitchen and bathroom and thus could qualify as a separate dwelling, it may be a good idea to research the permit requirements for ADUs.

Zoning Laws and Permits

Just because your backyard getaway doesn’t qualify as an ADU does not mean you are off the hook with regard to adherence to local zoning laws and permit requirements. Town building inspectors will want to know that your shed has been built to code so it won’t collapse during the first big storm or even sink into the ground. This means that no matter what size shed you intend to build you will likely need to obtain at least one permit in order to approve your building site. If you plan on including electric and water, you will likely need additional permits. Not obtaining proper permits before building can result in local building inspectors forcing you to move or even take down your shed.

Home Owner’s Associations

In addition to understanding your local zoning laws and permit requirements, you will want to check with your Home Owner’s Association if you have one. Many times, these associations will restrict your ability to build structures on your property or will at least provide guidelines for doing so. Another possible restriction can apply if you live in a Historic Preservation District, which can restrict any modification to the outside (and sometimes inside) of your dwelling or property.

The dream of a backyard retreat many times induces excitement, whether because it reminds you of your childhood clubhouse or just offers the chance of your finding an hour to quietly read a book without interruption. Turning that dream into a reality, though, requires proper research and planning so as not to lose your dream once it’s finally within your grasp.