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Lower Mainland builders warn of illegal backyard office sheds

Last Updated Dec 16, 2020 at 6:19 am PDT


People are being reminded to get the necessary paperwork if they're looking to build a backyard office

Lower Mainland builders say there's been an increase in demand for backyard office sheds amid the pandemic

Some municipalities require you to have a building permit if you want to turn a shed into or build a backyard office

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – With Canadians increasingly working from home, many have turned to backyard office spaces to help stay focused. But some builders around the Lower Mainland are reminding people to do it right, or possibly face the costs.

Some businesses have reported an increase in demand for these kinds of spaces since the spring.

“From the start of COVID-19, we’ve noticed a total influx of calls coming in about these backyard offices,” says Cole Kiez, sales manager, Coreval Homes.

“When we take on a new project, we make sure we go through all of the bylaws and zoning requirements with each city and we make sure we follow the setbacks, height restrictions, things like that. If permits are required, we always make sure to get an electrical permit or building permits, if anything else is required,” Kiez explains.

“Vancouver, particularly, and Surrey — those are the two that I ran into — are now requiring a building permit, even if it’s less than 107.5 square feet,” adds Joseph Neely, the president of Indoor Outdoor Guy Renovations.

Building permits vs. electrical, heating permits

Neely’s company has been making backyard offices since long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“This summer, we had no issue. But just recently they’ve added this requirement,” he explains, adding these building permits differ from electrical or heating permits.

“Electrical or gas permits are often what we call ‘over-the-counter’, meaning it used to be you would shop in person and you’d take the permit out and you’d have it the same day or in a couple of days. Whereas a building permit, on the other hand, is quite a different beast. You’re looking at multiple drawings, you’re going to have a site plan, you’re going to have elevation drawings,” Neely tells CityNews Vancouver.

“Where most homeowners, I find, don’t mind paying a little bit extra for a permit and would like to have it permitted. But when the process becomes a lot more daunting — which is what a building permit for a studio shed is — it’s a lot more work and it’s a lot more time that you have to wait. It just kills the project and in my opinion, it’s not really needed as long as you’re getting an electrical permit.”

Onus is on the owner

He would like to work with municipalities, like Vancouver and Surrey, to streamline the process.

There are many other businesses who build backyard office spaces, and some will tell their clients a building permit is not required.

However, in Vancouver, the city says it’s up to the owner to make sure they have all the necessary paperwork.

“Some homeowners may choose to forego the approval process on the advice of a contractor or if they feel the requirements are too onerous, however liability falls to the owners to ensure the work completed is permitted accordingly,” reads a statement from Andrea Law, Development Services, City of Vancouver.

“The last thing you want to do is spend money on a really beautiful workspace and all of a sudden you’ve got to take this beautiful thing down,” Neely adds.