Do You Need a Permit for a Carport? Find Out and Avoid a Fine!

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According to a 2015 American Housing Survey, 63% of all-American housing units had a garage or a carport. But the building of a garage involves a big investment and a lot of effort. So why not install a carport, which can be done in an afternoon or maybe even an hour? Great! Simples! But then someone mentions permits….do you need one for a carport?

In short, you may need a building permit for a carport, even a temporary carport, depending on which State you live in. These vary between State and State, and County and County, so you need to check with your own local authority.

Find out more by reading on…

Benefits of a Carport

So, you might also be thinking of getting a sturdy carport for your vehicle. They not only provide shelter for your vehicles, but they are also used to put other possessions for storage. They are easy to install, especially the portable steel ones, and can withstand all weather conditions, particularly heavy snow in winter.

The benefits of installing a carport can be summarised as:

  • Protects your Car / Boat / Trailer

Even though it often doesn’t have sides, a carport can keep the worst of weather in winter, and damaging UV rays in summer, from harming your car, boat or trailer.

  • Relatively Cheap

They don’t cost as much as a garage – anywhere between $200 to $1,000 or more for a temporary one that doesn’t look too bad – which can be very affordable when you consider the protection they can give to your car in bad weather. You’ll have to pay quite a bit more though to get one that looks the part.

  • Easy to Install

The lighter, more temporary ones can often be erected in a couple of hours with 2 people. Few, if any, tools are needed, and you don’t have to rely on builders turning up when they promised to.

  • Adds Value to Your Home

This is a tricky one. A well designed permanent structure can certainly add desirability, and therefore value to your home. A more temporary carport costing a few hundred dollars, probably not.

  • You May Not Need To Apply for a Building Permit

For more on this aspect, see below.

Do You Need a Permit for a Carport?

Plenty of people ask our opinion on this, and we cannot provide a one-fits-all answer to this query.

The local building authorities set building permit requirements, and they are different from county to county, and State to State.

In some regions, this rule even applies to portable carports.

In the following paragraphs, we deal with the permit terminology for a better understanding of your responsibilities, and some other frequently asked questions, e.g., what are building permits and building
codes, how to obtain the permit, and if you need a permit for a temporary structure.

Understanding the Basics

What is a Building Permit?

Before moving forward, we need to understand what these building permits allow. As approved by government authorities, these legal papers outline the construction guidelines for you and your neighborhoods, and demonstrate that the local authorities have reviewed your proposed construction, and found it acceptable in the context of local building rules.

If you have used architects and engineers you may have heard them talk about them. These permits explain the construction limitations that ensure that your project is safe and does not violate any rules.

What are Building Codes?

To smoothly get your permit, you must be aware of the building codes for your area. These codes are a set of rules for structural construction, how the buildings should be designed, and repair and demolition techniques.

These codes are followed universally but differ based on the regional laws and terrain of the land. Some of these codes also apply to fire safety, environmental impacts, and the structure’s average load-bearing capacity throughout its lifetime.

The good thing about carports is that, unlike a building extension such as a garage, they may not necessarily require a permit, as they may be classed as a temporary building or a garden canopy, and your local authority may exempt such buildings. The key thing is to check with your local authority.

How to Obtain a Carport Permit

Here are some of the critical steps to take to file for a permit:

  • Consult your Local Government Offices:

This step is, by far, the most critical step to take. Your local authorities will be the best source of information for the local laws. They can even tell you the exact type of permit you need for your carport.

If you’re having a carport built for you, it’s required of your licensed builder, or architect, to get in touch with the local planning office to check permit requirements.

  • Consult the authorities early on:

It’s always better to give your local authority a ring as soon as you’ve decided to go ahead with the carport. Outline the sort of thing you have in mind, its dimensions, materials, and where it’s located on your premises and you should get an early indication of whether a permit is required, and whether you’ll be successful in getting one.

  • You may need plans

Unless you’re installing a temporary carport, such as the ones outlined here (paid link), you’re probably interested in building a permanent carport, in which case you will need building plans.

To obtain a building permit, you need a site plan of the carport, the structure’s size, and setbacks from the property lines.

  • You will need an application form and fee

If you are required to have a permit, you will need to obtain an application form and pay a fee (some authorities don’t require a fee for certain classes of development). This differs from place to place.

  • Waiting is an essential part of the process

Don’t be tempted to press ahead with the project whilst waiting for approval, as you may run into difficulties with the authorities, and you may be required to make amendments to the plans which result in you having to change something you’ve already built.

  • Mark your utility lines:

We also highly advise you to mark all utility lines to help with the installation procedure. It is particularly important for a permanent carport. Marking the utility lines will help the builders steer clear of them and minimize the possibility of an accidental utility service disruption, and even a risk to life.

  • Post the permit somewhere visible

Once obtained, ensure you let the world know that you do have approval for the work, such as posting the permit in your front window.

  • Hire Licensed contractors

If the size and nature of the carport warrants, make sure you hire the right kind of professionals ie licensed contractors. Failure to do that might render the carport illegal, and even dangerous if not built correctly.

Of course, if you’re proposing to erect an out of the box carport, such as this one (paid link), then this won’t be necessary – it will probably be sufficient to hire someone with strong arms and back, with an ability to read instructions!

  • Obtain the Green Tag

Once the authorities have inspected the completed work, and satisfied themselves that it has been built according to the submitted plans, they will confirm in writing their approval, sometimes called a Green Tag in some areas.

Short Video On Getting a Permit

So, for those of you who prefer to see and hear these steps, here’s a short video of the process of obtaining, or pulling, a building permit:

Do You Need a Permit for a Free-Standing Carport?

So what if you’ve just bought a tent like carport, like this one here (paid link)? Do you need a permit for this?

It may be assumed that a building permit is only needed for a carport structure which is attached to the home. Unfortunately in some cases a free standing carport also falls into in the realms of approval by the local authorities.

Do You Need a Permit for a Portable Carport?

Yes, a building permit requires portable carports in all states and counties of the USA, except the Delta County in Colorado, some counties in Alabama, Hawaii, Michigan, North and South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Florida is a unique area in the USA in that there needs to be a building permit for every structure.

Do You Need a Permit for a Temporary Carport?

In many cases a building permit is required for temporary carports as well, but do be sure to check with your local authority.

What if I Fail to Get a Permit?

In case of failure to get a permit, the authorities might fine you. They can even confiscate the structure. Not getting a permit can also put you directly in violation of building safety rules, as well as some legal and
financial regulations.

Another consequence of not obtaining a permit for a carport may frustrate the sale of your property when you come to sell. Any potential buyers will want confirmation that you have secured all the necessary permissions before proceeding with the purchase.

Conclusion

So, do you need a permit for a carport? Put simply, yes, but you need to check your local permit awarding authority. The consequences of not getting an appropriate permit could cause you more trouble, and money, in the longer run than making the effort in the first place!

Image credit: Seattle Municipal Archives

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