Even though we may be owners of real property or be entitled to manage it on other legal grounds, we do not enjoy absolute freedom in making decisions relating to it. Some of the limitations result from the provisions of the Construction Law which impose a number of obligations on real property owners, including the need to obtain a building permit to construct a house on the land. Below we explain when a building permit is required and when there is no need to apply for one.
To begin with, it should be explained what a building permit is. A building permit is an administrative decision under which construction works can be carried out on real property. This decision determines what conditions must be met so that the construction can be carried out in full compliance with the law. It is especially important if we consider the consequences of conducting construction works without, or in violation of the required permits. Undoubtedly, the most severe of such consequences include demolition of the structure, even if it has already been completed or has been occupied for many years. A building permit is also required to perform other construction works, not involving the erection of a new building (structure).
What are construction works?
Under the Construction Law, a building permit must be obtained before construction works can begin. But what type of works qualify as construction works? Construction works comprise the construction of a structure, but also its alteration, assembly (e.g. of installations), renovation, as well as demolition.
What is construction of a building?
Most often, building permits are issued for the erection of new buildings (e.g. residential or office buildings). As explained by the provisions of the Construction Law, the term ‘construction’ does not only cover the erection of a building from scratch, but also the outward extension, reconstruction, as well as the upward extension of an already existing building.
What is an alteration of a building?
The second most common situation in which construction works are carried out is an alteration of a building. As a result of an alteration, changes are made to technical or functional parameters of an existing building (e.g. a change in the number of rooms). However, an alteration does not include activities resulting in a change to the gross volume of the building, gross covered area, height, width, length or number of floors in the building.
What is a renovation?
According to the Construction Law, a renovation involves construction works consisting in the restoration of the original condition of a structure. However, a renovation does not include works related to its routine maintenance.
What is a structure?
It should also be clarified what a structure that requires a building permit is. The term ‘structure’ covers a building, a built facility, as well as a landscape design object. A building is defined as a structure which is permanently fixed to the ground, has foundations and a roof. Landscape design objects are defined as small objects, for example statues, swings or rubbish bins. A built facility, on the other hand, is any other structure which is not a building or a landscape design object (e.g. airports, bridges, overpasses).
When is a building permit not required?
Under the Construction Law, certain types of construction works do not require a building permit but require a construction notification to be submitted to the competent authority. For example, a notification is required for the construction of a water supply or sewage network and for the construction of free-standing garages, sheds, and one-storey utility buildings with a total built-up area of up to 35 m2. Moreover, some construction works require neither a building permit nor a notification. This is the case for landscape design objects and backyard swimming pools and ponds of up to 50 m2.
Who issues a building permit?
As a rule, the district governor (Polish: starosta) is the first-level authority granting a building permit. The decision of the district governor may be appealed against to the regional governor (voivod, Polish: wojewoda). However, in specific situations listed in the Construction Law, the regional governor may act as the first-level authority (e.g. when the construction works concern a wind farm).
Which parties are involved in the administrative proceedings?
Apart from the investor, other parties to the administrative proceedings concerning a building permit include the owners, perpetual usufruct right holders and managers of the real property which may be affected by the construction (e.g. neighbours).
Who can apply for a building permit?
Only a person who owns real property for construction purposes may apply for a building permit. Such a person may be the owner, perpetual usufruct right holder, manager or a limited property right holder to the real property. Such a person may also act under a contractual relationship (e.g. a civil law contract) which provides for the right to carry out construction works.
How long will I wait for the decision?
The Construction Law states that a building permit should be issued within 65 days from the date of application. However, if the application is found to be incomplete, the deadline will automatically be extended. If the authority fails to issue the decision within the prescribed period, it may face a fine. In practice, the waiting time for a building permit can range from a month to even several months from the date of submission of the application.
The basic rule of the Construction Law is that in order to carry out any construction works, a building permit must first be obtained. However, there are many exceptions to this rule. Before embarking on any construction plans, whether large-scale (such as constructing an office building) or small-scale (such as creating a customer car park in front of your business premises), you need to be aware of which formalities you need to comply with and which you are exempt from. At Radkiewicz Lawyers Poland we provide advice and representation in administrative proceedings aimed at obtaining building permits.
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