Building Codes and Inspections/permit


thank you for your time. i live in a suburb of ny. several years ago i purchased and  8 ft x10 ft  outdoor storage shed for $2000.

prior to purchase i went to my town to find out exactly where it could legally be set in my property. i asked to see a print out of the code. they said they do not give out written info.  i asked again, same answer. i  asked how i could possibly know the code without a print out??  they verbally described the code to me.. " it needs to be 20 ft from property line  etc etc... very confusing to me.  anyway after several visits, i decided i had the correct info and asked the store to deliver the assembled shed and directed them to lay it on the pre built base, i had built for it to rest on. again, according to what i thought was code, as verbally described by a secretary at the building dept.
now i am selling this house, upon inspection, the code officer
announced that everything about the shed was not up to code. it was too close to house and or property line etc.  now they will only give me the c of o if i remove the entire shed and base when i close the house sale. this is a very expensive shed , one that looks like a miniature of the big house. among my problems is that i am moving to a different house in the same town. please understand the people at the building dept are very busy and very rude. they won't give u the time of day for small projects like this.can i insist that they provide me with the info so that i can place this shed correctly at the new house?  what is the towns obligation to its residents? they are so dismissive until they find a problem.
thank you so much!

First, is this a building code issue, or is it a zoning issue for residential property. It may be a bit of  both. The building code does talk about how far you can set things back from other structures as a safety issue. However, many local zoning ordinances may be more strict, and deal with additional issues that are not necessarily safety issues.

If it is a zoning issue, or partly a zoning issue, you may be able to find out something from your local planning department or planning commission, if you have a town or city council that has that kind of structure. Do you have a city councilperson who represents you? You might try to go to members of the city council and ask why the town would have a policy of not providing such statues, ordinances, etc, to citizens. You might be able to make a formal request for public information. Zoning should be public information.

The code might be copyrighted, which is why they may say they can't give it to you in written form. However, if it is the state building code that is the problem, you may be able to get it online through the state. The other possibility is to go to the nearest public library, and they should have the copy of the code, which you could read and copy down by hand. The building department in your town undoubtedly has a copy of the code, and they should let you read it and copy it down word for word. You may need to get someone to explain it, and you might want to see if you can hire a code expert to do that, or you might be able to find someone who would help free of charge. I know people who would probably do that, but they would need a copy of the code.

But you certainly need to go higher up in your city to get some respect, if your account is accurate. Ask to see the supervisor of the department. Ask why you can't get a print out. You might have to pay for a copy of a few pages, but a few dollars would be worth it. Another possibility is to go to somewhere in your town where they sell relocatable buildings, "shop" for one, and ask the person there if they know the codes for where you can locate the building in relationship to your house and property line. Or, if someone is building the platform for you, as a contractor, they should be able to check the code and find out.

You may just be confronting an overworked functionary who doesn't really know how to handle such questions, so you are told it's not possible. You will have to work around that, by going either to the department head, the politicians who want your vote, the city manager, or get the information on your own from the library, if it is the residential building code, and not local zoning laws, that are at issue.

I hope this is of some assistance.

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Sharon Toji


I have special expertise in the subject of accessibility codes and guidelines (ADA), and most specifically in the field of signage. If you have a question that is not about the ADA or about signs, I suggest you try the following excellent site: Naffa International BCDG (Building Code Discussion Group). The website address is You do have to register, but it's free. You will find discussions here on all kinds of Building Code Q & A topics. You go to the forum that sounds as if it's close to your topic, check out some of the posts and see if it sounds like a fit. Then pose your question. With luck, you may get some really good answers. You can email some of the experts individually by clicking on the headings of their posts. When you ask a question, of me, or of someone on the above site, tell them your state, and maybe your city if it's a large city. That is crucial for answering code questions. Sharon Toji


I am a voting delegate to the American National Standards Institute that writes accessiblity standards used by the International Building Code and are the basis for the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). I am also a member of the Access Advisory Committee to the California State Building Standards Commission, among other positions.

Signs and the ADA (a manual I have written that is used across the country), and articles in many trade journals.

BA, Reed College Graduate work, University of Munich (Germany) and University of California, Irvine

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