I like to answer to your questions on my blog, but this is the first time I decided to publish my reply as a separate post. That’s because the following question that came from Ellis is not an easy one..

I am looking for a place in the EU where I could buy land and build a very small timber frame off grid cabin, or live in a yurt for less than 7k€.

I’d be extremely grateful for any advice you would have. On what sort of land is it legal and possible to do this in Poland? Are there any zoning laws, land, and building regulations which will make this impossible?

The answer to this question is pretty complex, as the building-related laws in Poland.

Zoning laws in Poland

In theory, all plots of land need to have so called “plan zagospodarowania przestrzennego”, which translates to zoning scheme. This scheme defines what can you do on a specific plot.

For example, my land has the following zoning limits:

  • I can build a house, up to 2-story high,
  • the roof has to be at 45° angle (houses with attics) or 30° (without attics),
  • I can’t build the house farther than 100 meters from the road,
  • I cannot build anything closer than 50 meters to the forest (which is impossible, because of the limit above).

There is a lot of land for which those zoning schemes were not prepared yet. This doesn’t mean you cannot build anything there in general…

If there’s no zoning scheme for a specific plot, you can get so called “warunki zabudowy” (building limits?). This is a document stating what can you build on the plot, but the limits are set to meet what’s already developed in the neighborhood.

In theory in such a case you would get a limit that would not exceed what was built nearby. If there are only small, low houses, you won’t be able to build anything large and tall. But you might also be required to have brown roof shingles if all the houses nearby have them in the same color.

Building permit or notification

It’s also required to obtain a building permit before starting to build a house. To file for this permit, one needs to have the house already designed by an architect, drawn (laid out) onto a map, etc. The house should be designed according to the zoning scheme, or the building limits.

But there is a category of things you can build on your property withoug applying for the permit, but simply with building notification.

This was my case. When I planned building the shack, I prepared a simple map and drawings of what I want to build, and sent them to the district office. By that I notified the office on what I plan to build.

The list of things you can build using the notification is pretty short. What’s most important is that one can build a small outbuilding (“budynek gospodarczy”), less than 25 m² (counting the area defined by the outmost surfaces of walls). A shack, a shed, a workshop. Not a garage and not a house you plan to live in. Mine was built as exactly this and formally I cannot live there, and of course I won’t. 🙂

The district office could oppose my notification, for example, if I wanted to build a 40 m² outhouse.

Off-grid possibilities

If you’re thinking about developing a house in a very remote location, very far away from other buildings, chances you will be able to do so legally are slim. Though you might be able to get away with building an outhouse (office might not oppose to the notification).

I am pretty sure that you can park a trailer anywhere, and if you’re able to provide your own water and power, nobody would harass you. Except local thugs, of course. 😉

If you plan on building anywhere with the building permit, the house should be supplied with power and heat. But this doesn’t mean you have to be connected to the grid or the municipal heat supply network. You can produce power on site, using renewable energy.

Costs

Setting up a simple settlement would cost you at least 2 000 PLN/m2, equivalent to around €500. Less, if you decide to cut the costs whenever it’s possible. So if your budget is 7k€, you can get a lot for that.

Land is cheap here, but a square meter of lot might cost you even 1k€ in a large city or close to it. But I assume this is not the case.