GOOD TO KNOW
ERECTING SMALL BUILDINGS
WITH A SURFACE AREA OF LESS THAN 20 M²
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.