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Real Estate & Construction

How far from the edge of your plot can you place your building?

By Filip Wasilewski, radca prawny in SDZLEGAL SCHINDHELM
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How close to the border of your plot of land can you place a new building? Regulations that came into force on 1 January this year change those distances.

The amendment to the Minister of Infrastructure's regulation of 12 April 2002 on the technical conditions to be met by buildings and their location, lays down the legal conditions for locating planned buildings on a building plot. The new provisions introduce major changes, allowing for shorter distances between planned buildings and the boundary with neighbouring plots. This article outlines this issue, referring to the basic rules that concern the location of buildings set out in § 12 of the Regulation (rozporządzenie Ministra Infrastruktury z 12 kwietnia 2002 w sprawie warunków technicznych, jakim powinny odpowiadać budynki i ich usytuowanie). These are referred to in this article as 'the Regulation.'

One of the most important issues regulated by the this act is the location of buildings on a plot, setting out the distances between the planned building(s) and the boundary.

This issue is treated rather restrictively in the legislation. Investments that do not comply with these provisions will not obtain planning permission. Investments carried out contrary to these provisions are threatened with serious consequences –  a demolition order can be issued. To secure proper execution of an investment, it is crucial to understand the fundamental rules concerning the location of planned buildings; these have been significantly changed in this amendment.

According to the general rule stipulated in § 12 (1) of the Regulation, a building shall be located no closer than 4m from the boundary of the plot (where the building has a wall with windows or doors on the side facing the boundary) or 3m (where the building has a wall without windows or doors on the side facing the boundary. According to the literal meaning of the Regulation, this distance applies regardless of the type of land neighbouring the plot unless it is a road, in which case these provisions do not apply. The measurement of a distance shall be made from the extreme outer wall of the building to the boundary of a land, without taking into consideration the location of any underground parts of the building.

These rules shall be applied providing that other provisions of the Regulation, or separate provisions on permissible distances from buildings, are not stipulated by other requirements. It means that before applying rules resulting from the distance standards, one should check whether the building can be located within such distances without infringing provisions concerning the natural lighting of rooms, fire safety, parking places, solid waste storage, sanitary facilities, playgrounds, recreation places and other issues covered by specific provisions. These may mean that different distances from the building plot border will apply.
Deviation from these rules under the specific provisions may be in favour of the investor, allowing shorter distances between the planned buildings and the boundaries of the building plot, enabling use of a bigger area of the building land.

As an example, § 12 (2) of Regulation stipulates that a building having a wall without windows or doors on the side facing the boundary can be located as close as 1.5m from the boundary or directly next to the boundary – but only if the local zoning plan sets out such a possibility. Compared to the former legal situation, the previous possibility to reduce a distance on the basis of zoning approval has been excluded from the § 12 (2) of the Regulation. However, the amendment extends the scope of application of § 12 (3) of the Regulation, previously was limited to single-family houses. Despite the specific provisions, and the provisions of the Regulation, according to the current wording of this provision, one can locate any type of a building directly next to the boundary of a plot, provided that its wall will be adjacent to the wall of an existing building on the neighbouring land, and that its height will comply with applicable local zoning plan or the zoning approval.

Exceptions from general rules were introduced also for the single-family houses and farm buildings. You are allowed to:

  • Build a building having a wall without windows and doors directly next to the boundary of a building plot, or at a distance less than resulting from the general rules, no less, however, than 1.5m on a plot of 16 m or less in width

  • Extend an existing building vertically, located from the boundary of the plot at a distance less than that resulting from the general rules, by no more than one storey; however a vertically extended wall, located less than 4m from the boundary, cannot have windows or doors

  • Build a utility building or garage with a length of no more than 6.5m and height of no more than 3m directly next to the boundary of a building land or at a distance no less than 1.5m by the wall without windows and doors.

Benefiting from these exceptions results automatically that the neighbouring land is covered by the building’s impact zone within the meaning of art. 3 (2) of the Building Law. It means that in the event of the investor’s obligation to obtain a building permit for the planned investment, the owners, holders of perpetual usufruct or managers of neighbouring property will automatically have the status of a party in any administrative proceedings. In the event of infringements, the above-mentioned entities will be able to successfully block the investment by appealing against the building permit.

In the author’s opinion, these legal provisions, although rather restrictive, are positive – on one hand, they prevent the fragmentation of building land, on the other, they stipulate conditions for locating buildings, which do not rule out the optimal development of the neighbouring land.

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