Since the Building Code came into force on July 1st, 2015, it is no longer obligatory to apply for a permit from the local authority, nor notify them or seek their approval to erect, remodel or demolish buildings with a surface area of less than 20.0 m². This means that if the owner of a registered immovable wishes to erect a building with a surface area of less than 20.0 m², for example a shed or a sauna, it may seem that the law would let them do as they wish without informing anyone. However, this is not entirely the case. Although there is no requirement of coordination with the local government, the erection of any building, including one of a surface area of less than to 20.0 m², is nevertheless subject to the requirements for buildings, as well as, where appropriate, requirements for construction. Although you do not need to inform anyone about the intention to erect a building, you must still make sure that the desired building meets the requirements for buildings and construction. The building being constructed must conform to the restrictions and spatial plans rendered operative by the location of the construction work. It is common practice to erect a shed in the corner of the property or near its boundary, as there is where seems most fitting, away from everything else. Still, it is necessary to know whether it is allowed to construct the building there. The first question is whether the immovable property is subject to a detailed spatial plan and if so, it should be made clear whether it allows the erection of buildings on the boundary of the registered immovable, or if there is a building ban zone or an area to be occupied by buildings, where the erection of buildings or facilities is either allowed or is not. It is also necessary to ensure that there is the required fire safety clearance with regard to buildings on neighboring properties, to restrict the spreading of fire to neighboring buildings during a determined time. The building must also conform to other fire safety requirements, for example, those relating to constructing saunas with a solid fuel heating appliance. Similar requirements apply, for example, to shelters, i.e. civil engineering works, including those with a surface area of less than 20.0 m², because, for example, the requirement of a fire safety clearance area applies to those structures as well, if they enable fire spreading. In conclusion, when constructing any kind of building, it is necessary to comply with all relevant laws and regulations, but when it comes to buildings with a surface area of less than 20.0 m², the obligation/need to ensure compliance lies with the owner of the registered immovable.
When applying for permits, we often encounter the problem that the owner of the building has installed an air heat pump, including an outer unit. The real estate owners' usual explanation is simple: it is like a refrigerator in the corner of your kitchen that you would plug in to the socket. What permission do you need? However, according to the current Building Code, the installation of a heat pump is considered to be construction. According to subsection 4 (3) of the Building Code, remodeling i.e. renovation of a building is building work in the course of which the properties of the existing construction work are significantly altered. Replacement of specific elements of an existing construction work with equivalent elements is not regarded as remodelling. The remodeling of a construction work means, first and foremost, building work in the course of which an utility system that modifies the characteristics of the building is installed, modified or demolished. These characteristics include the building's exterior. Therefore, the installation of a heat pump should be preceded by a corresponding construction project and a building notice should be submitted to the local authority. When the local government has been notified, the heat pump should be installed, after which the local government should be notified that the heat pump is now in use: for that, the certificate and the use notice of the heat pump should be submitted. If the heat pump is installed without a legal basis, i.e. without having submitted a building notice, and it has been installed before July 2015, it can probably be legalised through the use notification procedure. This is probably because different regions have different requirements regarding the location and hiding of the heat pump. For example, the spatial plan for Nõmme states the following: heat pump equipment may be designed to be unseen from the street on a ground surface; installed onto the building or into a socket in disguised form (covered with a wooden rack of the same colour as the socket or wall surface). This means that if you have installed the pump facing the street and onto the wall directly, you may be required to reposition it or at least blend it visually into the façade, for example, by covering it with a wooden rack of the same tone. It is also necessary to take into account the fact that the local authority may also request that you have the air pump's noise level determined, to ensure that the noise reaching your neighbors is within the allowed limit. In our project management service, we offer professional assistance in gathering the documents necessary for obtaining the permit. We also work toward ensuring the process is as smooth as possible. We will develop and implement an action plan for your building and your existing situation. Our work mainly consists of coordinating the work of the people performing various audits and research, communicating with the local authority, submitting the application for an occupancy permit, as well as participating in the inspection prior to obtaining the occupancy permit and providing counseling to the owner.
WHAT IS USE AND OCCUPANCY PERMIT?
Use and occupancy permit is a final confirmation that the constructed, extended or rebuilt building is safe to use.
Every building permit should expire with the issue of an use and occupancy permit.
The Building Code Implementation Act passed in 2015 provides an opportunity to accept buildings erected, extended or rebuilt before 2015 without a legal basis, ie without a construction project and building permit.
This, of course, presupposes that the building is safe, the construction work has been completed before 2015 and the building complies with, for example, the general plan or the detailed plan. The construction project is replaced by a building audit in such a procedure.
BUILDINGS WITHOUT BUILDING PERMIT
In this situation, legalization of the building is possible through the use and occupancy permit procedure if the construction work has been completed before the summer of 2015.
In this situation, as-built drawings and audits with expert opinion on the construction work must be prepared to verify that the constructed or rebuilt building is safe and complies with, for example, § 11 of the Building Code. Requirements for the construction works.
Buildings erected or rebuilt in the period 2003-2015 must, among other things, comply with the current general or detailed spacial plan.
BUILDINGS WITH BUILDING PERMIT
In a situation where the building has been erected or rebuilt on the basis of a building permit, the construction technical documentation of the building must be submitted to the local authority.
This is a set of documents certifying that the building has been properly constructed and the installed technical systems are safe, including electrical installations, gas appliances, heating appliances and hearths.
Among other things, the journals of building operations and reports of covered Works must be also submitted. Usually, individual houses do not have these documents prepared. In this case, they can be replaced by a construction audit
USE AND OCCUPANCY PERMIT APPLICATION
If the owner of the property is not able to obtain all the necessary documents and apply for a use and occupancy permit himself, then we can offer our help. It is not wise to jump into unknown waters or make it through trial and error, just let the experts do their work to get the best and fastest possible result.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE
Each building has its own character, problems and issues. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. An application for a use and occupancy permit requires a number of relevant documents and obtaining these documents / audits takes the most time, unlike local government procedures. It should also be borne in mind that the results of investigations / audits may not be immediately positive and it may take time to make the necessary corrections.
According to the Building Code, the local government has time to process the use and occupancy notice within 10 days, ie within 10 days after notification, if the local government does not submit additional requirements, the building can be used. The 10-day notice procedure is in practice non-existent, as local government send a majority of use and occupancy notices for additional verification, ie add 30 days to the 10-day processing time.
As part of additional verification in the procedure of both use and occupancy notice and use and occupancy permit the local government and the Rescue Board will examine the documents submitted to the application and, if necessary, inspect the site. If questions/comments arise during the procedure, a corresponding note will be attached to the application, which can be resolved upon its return. Therefore, depending on the content and complexity of the comments submitted, the duration of the procedure may be extended.
- POST-CONSTRUCTION AS-BUILT DRAWINGS – it is a revised drawing created after construction is finished, where all the buildings and facilities located on the property are listed and on the basis of which, among other things, it can be checked whether the building / facility is located at the project site. In addition, the pavements, ground heights, utility networks and other objects located on the property shall be marked on the as-built drawings
- AUDIT OF ELECTRICAL INSTALLATIONS – an audit, as a result of which it must be confirmed that the electrical installation of the building is safe and ready for use. NB! In case of new buildings, the preparation of the audit requires a design of the electrical installation and a declaration of conformity by the builder of the electrical installation.
- AUDIT OF GAS INSTALLATIONS – if the building is heated by a gas supply from the street network, the gas installation must be inspected by an appropriately accredited company by conducting an audit of the gas installation. The audit must show that the gas installation complies with the requirements and is safe to use.
- AS-BUILT DRAWINGS – if modifications have been made to the construction and the result is different from the initial project, then in order to verify them, a respective amendment project shall be executed, based on the as-built drawings. The scope of the project includes floor plans, views, section and a table of technical indicators of the building.
- AMENDMENT PROJECT– a project necessary for the modification of a construction with an existing building permit. If modifications were made to the initial project, which can be changed through amendment project, an amendment to building design documentation shall be prepared.
- GENERAL CONSTRUCTION AUDIT – an audit that replaces the construction documentation (journals of building operations, reports of covered works) in their absence in the use and occupancy permit procedure, and / or is necessary to assess the safety of the building and, if required, the conformity of the construction work to spatial plan.
- FIRE SAFETY AUDIT – an audit to assess the building's compliance with fire safety requirements. In the case of individual houses, the need of fire safety audit arises if the building does not correspond to the building design documentation and if with amendment project it is not possible to verify modifications. It is also necessary if there is no documentation (reports of covered works, certificates, etc.) on the performance and compliance of fire safety works.
- EXPERT ASSESSMENT OF HEATING STOVES – the necessary document if the safety of the heating stoves cannot be proved. In an individual house, the owner can install the heating stoves himself, as well as factory-produced solid heaters and chimneys. Product certificates, installation and operating instructions must be available and, in the case of a chimney, a report of covered works/ cross-sectional diagram to prove that the chimney has been installed through wall and roof in accordance with the installation instructions. However, in the case of non-factory products of individual house, in the absence of a heating stove certificate, an expert assessment of heating stoves must be ordered. In residential buildings with two or more apartments and in other larger buildings, the owner may no longer install heating stoves himself, but in the absence of documentation of the heating stoves (reports of covered works, oven certificate, etc.), an expert assessment of the heating stoves must be ordered to prove the conformity of the installed products.
- CHIMNEY SWEEPING ACT – if the building has solid fuel stoves, for example, furnace, fireplace or cooker, then a chimney sweeper with professional certificate should inspect / clean chimney and flue. If he will evaluates the heating system as compliant, a chimney sweeping act will be issued. According to the current law, the system in individual houses must be inspected / cleaned every five years.
- DRINKING WATER ANALYSIS – required when using a borehole or well as a drinking water supply. You can take the samples yourself and take them to the laboratory or order the corresponding service from the laboratory.
- FOR A HOLE WELL – hole well certificate
- FOR SEWAGE CONTAINER – the certificate and installation certificate of the tank and, in some cases, invoices certifying the removal of the waste water.
- FOR AIR SOURCE HEAT PUMPS – pump certificate, and by request of local government - noise survey.
- FOR FORCED VENTILATION – an airflow measurement protocol showing the air volume in the room.
In our project management service, we offer professional assistance in gathering the documents necessary for obtaining the permit. We also work toward ensuring the process is as smooth as possible. We will develop and implement an action plan for your building and your existing situation.
Our work mainly consists of coordinating the work of the people performing various audits and research, communicating with the local authority, submitting the application for an occupancy permit, as well as participating in the inspection prior to obtaining the occupancy permit and providing counseling to the owner.
Project management is one of the most important elements of legalisation, because having a suitable plan of action ensures a smooth process and reaching the desired results.