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Do I have to get my tree house approved by the authorities or can I just start building on it? Up to what size is my house free of permit? What do local regulations and laws look like?

We share our practical experience as professional treehouse builders:

1. Do I need a building permit for my treehouse?

The term “tree house” has not yet been explicitly defined in the legal texts and is therefore considered a legal grey area – we show what matters in detail!

No official building application – “approval-free”:

No building permit usually needs a small, private tree house in the residential area, which is used primarily as a children’s playhouse.

  • Building on private property
  • Playhouse character (uninsulated, no fixed sleeping places, no electricity, play elements such as swing & slide, …)
  • Small footprint < 10 m²
  • More than 3 m distance from property boundary (Bavarian building regulations)
  • Good hidden, so no neighbour can see
  • No impairment of the neighbours (visibility, noise, shade, …)
  • No sealing of the floor surface (no foundation)

Official building application – “subject to approval”:

If the tree house is used as “living space”, you should definitely think about going to the community or to the local building authority.

  • Public buildings (rental, Air B’n’B, publicly accessible)
  • Treehouses with residential character (insulated construction, beds and furnishings, power supply, sanitary facilities, toilet, heating, fireplace, kitchen, …)
  • Gross volume, e.g. Bavaria: building > 75 m³ gross volume –> subject to approval according to BayBO
  • Eng colonized area
  • Impairment of neighbors (new eye contact, view, noise, …)
  • < 3 m distance to property boundary

Are you planning to build a larger tree house that falls under the category “subject to approval”? Then read on and inform yourself here about the current legal situation, because this background knowledge is important to convince the authorities.

There are several levels in building law:

From the rough land-use plan, to the more detailed development plan, to the individual conditions on site where the tree or stilted house will be build.

2. Land use plan & outdoor area

The land use plan provides a graphical overview of the current usage of the land, as well as the future planning of infrastructure, industrial estates, residential areas, agricultural areas, etc..

The following example shows the land use plan of the urban area Koblenz (source: Wikipedia).

The plan is particularly important in the peripheral areas of residential areas, agricultural areas and forests – where much stricter building regulations apply in what is known as outdoor areas!

3. Development plan & inner-local construction

What exactly can I build in my garden in the “pure residential area” of the city of Koblenz?

For this you need the development plan:

This contains the legally binding regulations of the respective municipalities, e.g. roof shape, roof pitch, roof covering, building materials, building boundaries, colour design, permissible height, spacing from neighbouring properties, …

The plans can be inspected at the building regulations office, the municipal administration, the city planning and with many municipalities also on-line.

4. Decisive factor: The gross volume of the house

The building permit or building permit is the official approval of the building supervisory authority for the construction, modification or removal of a building structure.

Interesting are here the “permission-free or procedure-free buildings”!

Whether a treehouse belongs to the category “permit-free” or “subject to approval” depends on its size, use and exact location.

The decisive factor is first of all the size of the enclosed space, the so-called gross volume [m³]. This is measured on the outside dimensions of the tree house as follows:

5. Summary & Our Tips

Building a tree house is still a legal grey area.

For larger projects (tendency “subject to approval”) with visual material go to the building authority.

As soon as your neighbours are affected in any way: tell them about your building project in good time, show them your designs and inform them about all the consequences of the new building (noise, eye contact, view when the tree is not leafy in winter,…).

Permit ahoi… let’s build that treehouse!

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