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Applying for a building permit: you need to know that
Applying for a building permit: you need to know that

Video: Applying for a building permit: you need to know that

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A building permit is not absolutely necessary for every building project. You can find out when you need to apply for a building permit and which documents you need for the building application here.

Table of contents Table of contents Applying for a building permit: the most important facts

  • For which projects do you need a building permit?
  • Which construction projects are free of approval?
  • Building permit in a simplified procedure
  • Documents for the building application
  • This is how the approval process works
  • Processing time until building permit
  • When does a preliminary building inquiry make sense?
  • Building permit costs
  • Does the neighbor have to agree to my construction project?
  • Opposition options for residents
  • Build without a building permit
  • Obtain building permit retrospectively

Table of contents Table of contents Applying for a building permit: the most important facts

  • For which projects do you need a building permit?
  • Which construction projects are free of approval?
  • Building permit in a simplified procedure
  • Documents for the building application
  • This is how the approval process works
  • Processing time until building permit
  • When does a preliminary building inquiry make sense?
  • Building permit costs
  • Does the neighbor have to agree to my construction project?
  • Opposition options for residents
  • Build without a building permit
  • Obtain building permit retrospectively

With a building permit you are on the safe side as a builder. You can rest assured that you can build according to your approved building application and that you will no longer face any legal obstacles. Entitlement to the approval always exists if the construction project does not raise any concerns regarding building planning or building regulations. However, the authorization must be used within three years, otherwise it will lose its validity and you must apply for an extension.

For which projects do you need a building permit?

Are you planning a new building, want to add or modernize your house? Then you will most likely need a building permit. In principle, a building permit is required for every construction, change of use and demolition measure. The building law is quite different at the state level - in some countries even small structural changes such as dormer windows require a building permit, in others they can be built without a permit. A look at the respective state building regulations, which you can usually find on the Internet portals of the state governments, reveals what may and may not be built without a building permit. However, a conversation with an employee of the local building authority is often more understandable and reliable for the layperson. Depending on the region, these can be found under different names: Building Department, Building Inspectorate or Building Office.

Tip: If you do not want to make an official written - and paid - pre-construction request, but only want verbal information, please make a note for yourself: This will include the current date and time of the interview, the name of the employee, his telephone number if applicable and of course the content recorded. The conversation note can be helpful if there are inconsistencies afterwards. Ideally, a relative or acquaintance will accompany you to the interview, whose name should also be noted in the conversation note. The alternative: You send your request in writing and informally by e-mail - this is usually also free of charge.

Which construction projects are free of approval?

It's confusing: In Bavaria, owners always need a permit to build a winter garden. In Thuringia, this only applies to particularly large, heated specimens. This is because building law is a national issue. In some federal states, no permit is required at all for garden sheds, terrace roofs, carports and garages, photovoltaics, solar panels and water basins. So ask the local building permit authority. If your construction project is actually approval-free, you can take action right away.

Attention: Some construction projects in some federal states are license-free but subject to notification. With such measures, the builder or his architect often has to fill out as many forms and submit documents as with a normal building application. But the building authority only checks the construction project occasionally. If the builder does not hear the contrary from the building authority after a certain period of time, the building permit is considered granted. This is also referred to as an exemption procedure (see below).

Good to know: Even construction work that does not require a permit is subject to the requirements of public building law. For example, you must observe the distance regulations. Otherwise, the authority can subsequently request the establishment of legal conditions.

Even that cannot be answered in general, because it depends on your individual project: The state building regulations stipulate the maximum floor space that a house without a permit may not exceed. They also regulate whether the garden shed needs statics or not. Therefore, clarify with the building authorities which approval documents you have to present before you buy. Perhaps the building authority is satisfied with the flat-rate approval of the kit house.

Building permit in a simplified procedure

For some construction projects, a simplified approval procedure, including an exemption procedure or a notice procedure, is possible. Only certain points of the building template are checked here. The builder or his architect must ensure that his design fully meets the requirements of the development plan. Small and medium-sized buildings or residential buildings can be approved more quickly if they are within a qualified development plan and the development is secured. All usual building templates must also be submitted to the exemption procedure. Which are these is stated in the respective building regulations.

In the information procedure, the building permit is automatically granted within a period of time - for example, four to six weeks - after the building documents have been submitted, unless the building authority informs the developer otherwise.

Übersicht - Baugenehmigung
Übersicht - Baugenehmigung

Ask the building authority how long the approval process takes.

Photo: Association of private builders

Documents for the building application

Professional planning documents for the construction project are required for a building application. This is why an architect or civil engineer usually has to apply. But there are exceptions here too: For smaller measures, master craftsmen can sometimes write the application documents.

You have to submit the application in triplicate, together with all the documents necessary for the assessment of the construction project. Here is a rough framework for new buildings with no claim to general validity:

  • Architect's drawing
  • Information on property drainage and water supply
  • Information about the way of access
  • Technical description of the building
  • Statics
  • Fire protection, sound insulation, thermal insulation
  • Site plan of the land registry
  • Construction number calculation
  • Profile plan
  • Calculation of the sealed plot area
  • Possibly. Declaration of consent from neighboring neighbors
Unterlagen für den Bauantrag
Unterlagen für den Bauantrag

The architect will prepare the documents for the building application with you. They are submitted in triplicate.

Photo: iStock / whyframestudio

This is how the approval process works

If there is no qualified development plan or if you plan deviations from an existing development plan, the authority will check during the approval process whether your project fits into its surroundings according to the type of use, size and location of the structure, the built-up area and the construction method. She also pays attention to the maintenance of clearance areas.

If you discuss the details beforehand, you run the risk that the building application will be rejected. Because every building regulation also leaves room for interpretation. And if after a few weeks a rejection flutters into the house, there is no reason to give up immediately: Often a compromise can still be found in a personal conversation. Special permits are also possible, for example as part of an efficient renovation. Owing to measures for thermal insulation, builders can sometimes violate the border development - this is where climate protection comes first.

  1. Information from the building authority catch up.
  2. The architect makes a draft and coordinates it with the client.
  3. The architect draws the building template and compiles all documents for the building application.
  4. The building authority checks the building application.
  5. The building permit is issued and the construction project can start.


  1. The building authority rejects the building application and give the reasons for their decision.
  2. A conversation with the building authority a possible compromise or a special permit is required.
  3. The architect modifies the construction plan or the builder may obtain the consent of the neighbors.
  4. The building authority issues the building permit and the construction project can begin.

Processing time until building permit

Only when the local building authority has given a building permit can the craftsmen move in. This often takes several weeks, sometimes even a few months. Unfortunately, there are no nationwide rules regarding the processing time of building applications. The time in which builders have to wait idle varies depending on the state and municipality. If you are lucky, you can get away with four weeks - others have to endure six months. Only in Baden-Württemberg does § 54 of the state building code stipulate that the decision on the building application must be made after two months at the latest. How quickly the building permit is issued elsewhere also depends on the individual case: a normal apartment building in the new development area is usually approved faster than a vacant lot in the listed old town or a commercial project in the unplanned outdoor area.

Tip: If documents are missing, the building permit procedure is delayed unnecessarily - so make sure you are complete.

When does a preliminary building inquiry make sense?

If you want to know whether your own ideas can be implemented before drawing up the construction plan, you can find out by asking for a preliminary construction. In principle, anyone can ask this - but it makes perfect sense to seek the advice of an architect who, based on his specialist knowledge in the field of planning and building regulations, can answer one or two questions in advance.

A preliminary building inquiry also makes sense if there is no development plan for the property or if it is located in the so-called outside area - i.e. outside of a coherent development. Then the requirement is that the new building "fits in with the peculiarity of the surrounding area and the development is secured". Even if you want to sell an undeveloped property, you can make a preliminary building request and thus increase the price, because after all, prospective buyers can quickly find out whether the purchase is worthwhile for them or not.

Like the building permit, the preliminary building request must be submitted in writing to the responsible building authority or the building inspectorate. Two options are available for this: the formal request (for a certain fee - for a family home usually in the double-digit range) and the informal application. The latter is easier to make, but the answer to it has no legally binding effect.

Good to know: The preliminary building inquiry takes no less time than the building permit - you have to expect up to three months of processing time.

Building permit costs

Builders should take into account about 0.5 percent of the construction costs (excluding additional costs) for the building application. Alternatively, you can use this formula to calculate the cost of the building application:

Converted space in cubic meters x construction value in euros per cubic meter / 0.5 percent = cost of the building application.

With new building costs of 300, 000 euros, the building application therefore incurs approximately 1, 500 euros. However, if the construction sum is much smaller, the building authorities usually charge a minimum fee of 100 to 200 euros. Special permits, for example from the water authority or for felling trees on the property, may result in additional costs.

Tip: Even if you still want to wait for the garage to be set up for a new construction project, take it into account in the construction plan right from the start. This saves you an additional building permit procedure. But be careful: the additional work may result in more costs for the architect and structural engineer.


If your new building fits in with the surroundings and complies with the development plan, there should be no problems with the building permit.

Photo: iStock / JohnnyH5

Does the neighbor have to agree to my construction project?

Anyone who follows all the requirements of the development plan and the respective state building regulations will receive a building permit - regardless of how their neighbor feels about the project. If, on the other hand, exemptions and exemptions from the development plan are to be granted, approval is at the discretion of the authority. In such a case, the chance of approval increases if the client can show the approval of his neighbors. So, as the client, provide your neighbors with the documents for the project in good time and ask them for a signature.

Opposition options for residents

As a resident, you agree to the construction project with your signature. However, you may inadvertently make further concessions, such as reduced space. To prevent this from happening, here are a few tips on what you should pay attention to when checking the documents:

  • Are the clearance surfaces in order?

    How big the distance to the neighbors must be depends on the respective building regulations of the federal state. As a rule, it is at least three meters - with the exception of balconies, oriels or stems, for which the shorter border distances apply. Garages up to a certain size can often be placed on the limit

  • Does the building match the character of the area?

    If the building contradicts the construction area, neighbors can feel unreasonably annoyed. But it is not the individual taste that decides, but the development plan. For example, no commercial enterprise may be built in a residential area. In this case, the building permit would not get through anyway.

  • Is third-party protection maintained?

    If the construction project exceeds the permitted use of space, the number of apartments or the height of the building, you as the neighbor can object to the building permit.

If you want to take action against a building permit that has already been issued, you only have one month to do so. Exception: If you, as a neighbor, have not been informed, you can object to the building permit within a year, starting from the point at which you became aware of the building project.

If the authority rejects the objection, an appeal to the administrative court is possible. It makes sense for this lawsuit to be accompanied by an urgent procedure that will result in a construction freeze. Otherwise you may have to come to terms with the facts. The objection or the lawsuit is promising if the approval clearly violates a neighboring protection regulation. In this way, however, you will most likely not be able to secure the unobstructed view that you have enjoyed so far.

Abstand zum Nachbarn
Abstand zum Nachbarn

How big the distance to the neighbors must be depends on the respective building regulations of the federal state.

Photo: iStock / JackF

  • Building planning right to conservation
  • Regulations regarding the maintenance of clearances to external building walls
  • some requirements for the stability of structural systems
  • if necessary fire protection guidelines
  • possible plans for the location of parking spaces and garages
  • Building planning law consideration requirement
  • Section 5 of the Federal Immission Control Act: According to this, installations requiring approval must be set up in such a way that they do not have any harmful environmental effects on the general public and their neighborhood.

Build without a building permit

New buildings need a building permit - of course! But with smaller construction projects, one or the other may be inclined to avoid the tedious process. Attention: Those who implement their construction project without a permit, be it a tree house or a tool shed, may violate the building regulations of the federal state.

This so-called black building often remains undetected in rural areas for years. But since Google Street View came into existence, more and more violations have been noticed. Then the authority first sends an invitation to the owners to be heard. After that, the property is usually checked unofficially from the neighboring property. If the building is black, the owner is asked to remove it. If he does not do this, he will be fined. This varies depending on the federal state and the facts. Baden-Württemberg's black builders pay a fine of 500 to 7, 500 euros for small changes in space and 1, 500 to 50, 000 euros for larger volumes. In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, on the other hand, the fine is significantly cheaper at 750 to 10, 000 euros. Anyone who makes small room changes in Thuringia without permission will get away with 250 to 7, 500 euros. By the way: If the owner still does not remove the property after the notice of the fine, the building authority will tear it down himself.

Good to know: In addition to the penalties under building law, black building may result in insurance law and tenancy law consequences, for example if the building insurance does not pay or the tenant terminates without notice.

Obtain building permit retrospectively

When buying a house, it sometimes happens that renovation or expansion measures that were carried out many years ago were not permitted through a building permit. In this case, a subsequent building permit can be requested. This is very often given for terrace roofs, walls, carports, swimming pools or garden houses.

Tip: Before buying the property you should let the seller show you all building permits or ask the building authorities. If this tells you that a subsequent building permit cannot be issued, you should leave your fingers out! In this case, you might even have to expect a disposal order.

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