In New Hampshire and other states around the U.S., state law requires that individuals obtain permission from local and/or state/federal agencies prior to construction of new or renovated structures. These permissions depend on the type of construction sought, and can range from local planning and zoning approvals (such as building permits, variances, and/or special exceptions) to complex permissions of governmental agencies (such as SEC approvals).
The United States is not unique in the world in requiring such permission prior to construction. Around the world, many countries require building applicants to present construction plans and/or submit evidence regarding the proposed construction sites in advance of commencing construction.
The United States and other nations place significance on approvals prior to construction because it helps to monitor and regulate the types of development that occur. The failure of builders to obtain permissions prior to construction bear different consequences based on the severity of the construction and affect to the surrounding environment. For example, construction of a single- family dwelling without a building permit may result in fines and/or issues with financing. In more extreme cases, courts may require the demolition of the unapproved structure.
Recently, a French court (hyperlink “French court” to https://www.cnn.com/style/article/france-chateau-destruction-scli-intl/index.html) ordered property developer Patrick Diter to demolish a Renaissance-style mansion, valued at some $64 million, due to construction without proper permitting. In that case, the Attorney General of the court of appeal in Aix-en-Provence argued the developer “executed important works on a land without authorization,” and the court agreed. The structure central to the inquiry sits on some 17-acres of land, complete with two helicopter pads, majestic gardens, and 18 unique suites. While Diter is known to have purchased the land legally, the Court held the construction occurred without permission and ultimately ordered Diter demolish the structure in its entirety within eighteen months.
While the Diter case is certainly an extreme example, construction without appropriate permits should be avoided by property owners to ensure the existence of their structures. If property owners are unsure what construction necessitates a permit, they should contact an attorney for guidance.