The 10 most important questions and answers about regulations and laws when building a house

Depending on the region in Germany, building owners sometimes have extremely little freedom when it comes to planning and building their own home. You can read the ten most important questions and answers about the builder’s wishes and legal requirements in the following article.

1. How far may my house stand from the property line?

The distance regulations for properties in the Building Code are a case in themselves and are riddled with numerous exceptions and special cases, which are recorded in paragraph six of the respective state building regulations. In view of this flood of exceptions, it is not possible to make a blanket statement for every property, but there is at least one basic rule: the distance to the neighboring property must be at least as great as the height of the planned house from the ground to the roof. This value is called 1H.

If you want to build closer to the boundary, you need a declaration of consent from your neighbor and the relevant building authority. No rule without exception: If the neighboring house already stands directly on the border, the own building can also be built directly on it. The sense behind the distance regulation is above all that all houses get enough light and air and fire protection is ensured.

2. What do I have to consider with the height of the house?

Some: Even if some house owners would like to develop in the height in view of a small property with their house, the development plan of the municipality sets this project in each case borders. In principle, most municipalities set the maximum height for single-family homes at twelve meters between the ground and the roof ridge. However, there can also be deviations here, so that in any case the development plan should be consulted before planning begins. Because it also regulates other things, for example, the number of floors allowed in this building area.

The background to these regulations lies not only in the relative visual uniformity of a street, but also in the fact that a house that is too high could lead to intolerable shadowing by its neighbors.

3. Can I freely choose the color of the exterior of my house??

Yes and no: In principle, homeowners are free to paint their walls any color they wish. However, it can also happen with the choice of color that the responsible municipality has issued exceptions in the development plan. Also here with a uniform looking street line in mind. So before the painters arrive, homeowners should in any case at least call their local authority office to avoid any hassle.

For: If municipal rules actually exist and a homeowner does not comply with them, the municipality can force him to adjust the house – of course, the bill for this is borne by none other than the homeowner himself.

Whoever transforms his house into a "Villa Kunterbunt" without consulting the municipality, will most likely have to cancel this project again. Of course at your own expense.

4. I want my house to be as far away from the street as possible, is that allowed??

Probably not: here, too, the municipality will have established a so-called building line in the vast majority of cases. This functions practically like a large, virtual ruler in the development plan, on whose line the houses of a building area are oriented.

But, as it is stated in §23 of the building regulation, there are exceptions also in this case: "Stepping forward or back from building parts to a minor extent may be permitted.". This "minor extent" set in the past court decisions limits at 1.5 meters from the building line. This is as far as builders should take their homes from this scope. The penalty could go up to the forced demolition.

A house this far from the street is impossible to implement in most communities: The location would result in a gap in the streetscape, which communities usually want to refrain from doing.

5. Am I allowed to freely design the interior fittings?

The internal layout of the house is one of the very few points in the division on which the legislator has no influence at the municipal level. But Germany would not be Germany if there were no regulations here either: DIN 18015, for example, prescribes the number of sockets to be installed per room and other elements dealing with the electrics in the house, such as fuses and circuits.

In addition, the GRZ also applies to existing development plans: It stipulates the maximum percentage of the plot that can be built over. So the dimensions of rooms cannot be increased arbitrarily.

Property size: 1000m² / floor space ratio: 0.2 (typical new development area)
Calculation: 1000m² x 0,2 = 200m² (which may be built over)

6. My dream house has a monopitch roof – can I make it happen??

Here, too, the answer is once again: Only if the development plan allows it. In cases of doubt, it regulates not only the shape of the roof, but also its angle of inclination and, not least, its orientation: If a street is to be lined only with gable-fronted houses, i.e. with the roof slopes to the left and right as seen from the street, then builders must construct their house in this way.

By the way: The development plan also regulates the covering material of the roof. Even if dream house with pent roof is allowed, it may still be that in the municipality are prescribed tiles, instead of the desired slates. And, of course, it may be that even the color of the covering is regulated in the respective municipality.

Colorful legal situation: A house with thatched roof would probably be inadmissible in a new building area in Baden. In the extreme north of Germany, however, it may even be mandatory under certain circumstances.

7. Can I put a garage next to my house??

Basically yes – but with restrictions: Even with the garage, the prescribed distances to the neighboring property must be observed. However, the approval procedure is somewhat simpler compared to a residential building: some federal states do not require a building permit for garages, their construction is then permit-free – but this does not mean that builders can then let off steam at will. In these states, too, the building code must be kept in mind in any case, otherwise fines may be imposed.

By the way: These regulations apply not only to closed garages made of concrete and masonry, but also extend to wooden, open carports.

8. I would like to fence off my property from the street with a hedge. What to consider?

The hedge as an enclosure is quite popular – and as long as the regulations of the municipality do not state otherwise, it is also permissible. However, in this case the federal states again cook different soups. The only generally valid rule is that hedge plants, measured from the center of the plant, must maintain a minimum distance of 50 centimeters from the street, or the street itself. the sidewalk should be respected. However, depending on the height, this value can also shift upwards.

For example, the mentioned 50 centimeters in Baden-Wurttemberg apply only to hedges up to a height of 1.80 meters. Every centimeter that goes beyond this must also be apportioned to the distance to the street. So a 2.25 meter high hedge would have to be planted 95 centimeters from the boundary.

9. My municipality forces me to install photovoltaics on the roof, is that legal??

Yes, this procedure is legally clean. The background is the federal "Renewable Energy Heat Act" that went into effect in 2009. It stipulates that new buildings nationwide cover their heating requirements proportionally from renewable energies, as in the case of the Efficiency House 40. In principle, it does allow substitute measures if the homeowner does not want to install a photovoltaic system, for example, such as biomass boilers.

However, if the municipality itself mandates the use of such systems, then homeowners can only fight that mandate in court.

10. Am I at least allowed to do what I want in my garden?

As far as ornamental flowers, vegetables and the like are concerned, neither the state nor the country nor the municipality have any kind of right to exert influence: for example, if you want to turn the entire garden behind your house into a large vegetable patch to grow potatoes, carrots and the like on it, you can’t do that. to grow, may as well as lawn lovers who want to cover everything with a meadow. The only limitation here is tall growing trees.

All German states, with the exception of the city states of Hamburg and Bremen, as well as Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, prescribe to homeowners how far apple trees, lime trees and co. are allowed to stand away from the property line. Since these distances differ greatly from one another in some cases (a tree in Lower Saxony, for example, must be at least 125 centimeters from the border, while a Bavarian tree must be at least two meters away), it is not possible to make a generally valid blanket statement.

By the way: However, anyone who plans to simply put a greenhouse, a tool shed or a party arbor in their garden is already standing with one foot in front of the judge again: these buildings are regulated just as differently in the federal states as all other buildings.

Conclusion – specifications in the construction of houses serve a specific purpose

Building freely according to one’s own wishes is not possible in Germany. The Federal Republic is a relatively densely populated country, in which cities and municipalities are concerned to integrate the respective typical overall impression also with new buildings. But this approach has to do not only with blind regulatory frenzy, but also with safety:

For example, too close a building is always a risk in case of fires, which can jump from house to house more easily this way. Last but not least, norms for interior construction also ensure uniform standards, so that repair possibilities and also safety in every single house are on one level.

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