How Close to the Boundary Can You Build a Shed?

Mar 01, 2023

Deciding to build a new shed is exciting, but it’s important not to get too carried away with planning before you’ve done your homework. Before you start marking out where you want your new shed to go, you’ll need to ensure you know the law around building consent and positioning, as you may not be able to place it as close to your fence as you’d like.

It pays to know the rules to avoid extra work, but it’s worth noting that unless you’re planning to lay down a fixed floor for your shed, relocatable sheds like those we have here at Outpost Buildings can be moved even after the fact, to make sure that they’re compliant.

These are a few important considerations, and it’s up to you to make sure you comply with the guidelines of your local council to avoid any fines or complaints from your neighbours. Below, we’re going to cover the basics of which structures need consents, and where is best for you to build whether you need a consent or not. The advice we have is best considered as guidelines, and while we’ve done our best to make sure our information is up to date, it’s still best practice to contact your local council, because the exact rules and regulations can differ from place to place even within the same city.

Getting started

When you first start planning your new structure, you’ll want to check the boundary rules in your district plan. These include regulations on how high a building can be, the legal building distance from the boundary, and also whether or not you can build a deck, fence, or retaining wall close to the boundary. These rules will be unique to your local council.

Once you’ve found the website of your local council, it pays to explore their resource consents section too—you can apply for resource consent if you’re planning a project that falls outside the district plan. In some cases, you may also want to apply for what’s called a “deemed permitted boundary activity”, and your council should be able to help you decide which application is best. If you do apply for a deemed permitted boundary activity, you’ll need to get the written consent of any neighbours whose property is being infringed upon.

However, in many cases you may not need a building consent for a planned shed at all, as they’re often too small to qualify.

Do you need building consent to build a shed?

According to the New Zealand Building Government, small, detached buildings “not exceeding 30 square metres” don’t usually need a building consent. This covers almost all garden sheds, and a lot of single-storey cabins and sleepouts too. All of the cabins we offer are under 30 sqm too, so you know you won’t need building consent to place one on your property. Again, we still suggest checking with your local council to be on the safe side.

Usually, small structures like sheds don’t pose nearly as many potential hazards as larger and more complicated buildings, so they can be exempt from the typical building codes, and you may not need a consent at all for a garden shed or cabin. As a basic overview, single-storey detached buildings used to require a consent from 10sqm and up, but this size has been increased to 30sqm. Buildings that don’t require consents now include kitset sleepouts, sheds, greenhouses and many other similar structures.

If you want to build a shed as a sleepout for people to stay in, there are a few basic rules to keep in mind—they need to include some basic sanitation, and they can’t include cooking facilities, as smaller spaces have a higher risk of fire.

These government guidelines came into place relatively recently in August 2020, in order to cut down on the amount of consents that councils have to approve, and also to help make the process of erecting a smaller structure much easier. Some further examples of structures that should be exempt under these new rules are:

  • Carports with a maximum floor area of 40m2
  • Awnings, verandahs and porches with a maximum size of 30m2
  • Detached single storey pole sheds and hay barns

All this means that you can likely complete a minor building project on your own, as long as your structure doesn’t require electricity or plumbing. Even a garden shed still needs to be compliant with the major building rules in New Zealand, so we recommend that you still do some background research on the relevant pieces of legislation, including:

  • NZ Building Code
  • Resource Management Act 1991
  • Electricity Act 1992
  • Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

You can read more about building permits for sheds and sleepouts here.

How close to a fence can you build a shed?

Even if you don’t need a building consent, you will still need to comply with the basic rules around building next your fence, assuming you’re looking to position your shed near the edge of your property. In New Zealand, a small structure should be no closer to a boundary than it is high.

The Height in Relation to Boundary Rules do differ between local councils, but they all aim to achieve the same thing, which is avoiding buildings on one site physically dominating another site. The regulations also aim to mitigate any effects that the placement of new buildings or additions to existing buildings may have regarding limiting a neighbour's access to daylight and sunlight. The rules don’t completely eliminate loss of sunlight to neighbours, but instead try to maintain a compromise.

However, fence lines and boundaries are not always exactly the same for a piece of property, so they need to be considered separately. Most of the time this won’t be an issue, and the council can assist you regarding the boundary, but it’s a good idea to consider the fence as a separate issue. It may seem like an unnecessary extra step if you’ve been cleared to build as close as you want to the boundary, but even if you’re within your rights to build where you want to, it may still be too close to the fence line for practical reasons.

What if you do need consent?

If you do decide that you want to build something that requires building consent, there are some things you’ll need to take into account.

For instance, you should know that a pole shed or hay barn for rural storage can’t be then used for another purpose or converted into another kind of structure without first letting the council know. You’ll also want to talk to the council about stormwater regulations regarding the roof of the structure.

The cost of a building consent can vary depending on how big the project is, often somewhere between $1k to $5k. This might seem steep, but it’s worth remembering that a building consent does help future-proof whatever you’ve decided to build for possible development in the area (especially in rural areas), and it can also add value to your property.

Why can’t sheds be built next to a fence?

The first reason is to avoid accidentally infringing on another piece of property. Even if you feel a structure is well within the bounds of your own property, neighbours may be within their rights to ask you to move a shed if it’s too close to the fence. You should also remember that your current neighbours could be completely happy with your new shed being right on the fence line, but future neighbours may not feel the same way.

There are also safety reasons for leaving as much space as you can—small sheds placed right up against a fence can tend to have reduced airflow and start to create damage under damp conditions, either on the shed or on the fence. Structures closer to fences are also potentially hazardous during a fire, as it will spread much easier from structure to structure if they are all placed close to the fence.

Another practical reason to avoid building close to a fence is to allow room for repairs. Saving space on your property by building in a corner seems like a great idea until you need to get behind the shed to access either it or the fence itself, so it’s always best to leave yourself as much space as you can just in case.

Kitset sheds from Outpost Buildings

There is a lot of building work you can carry out on your own under NZ building regulations. Kitsets can be a great way to manage a small building project, as much of the work is done for you, and all of the parts are supplied up front. Kitset garden sheds also typically cost less than constructing something from scratch.

Here at Outpost Buildings, we have a range of sizes and designs for small structures you can build on your property without a building consent, many of which are ideal as sleepouts or kitset studios.

We supply our kitsets with comprehensive builders plans and assembly instructions to keep the build process simple and straightforward. We recommend that assembly is carried out by an experienced builder or tradesman where possible for some of our larger structures, and we can also provide support, but we do also have kitsets available that only require basic building skills.

Our sheds are built with strong timber framing and quality corrugated iron roofing (with Colorsteel upgrades available). They’re also relocatable, making them easy to place in the perfect location. If you’re looking to find a kitset shed, reach out and talk to us about which one will suit your property best.

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