A common question we get is the feasibility and legality of living in a summer house in your garden. Some people may want to do this to have guests stay over, or as an alternative place to live and enjoy during the summer. Others may need this functionality for something like a granny flat or because they are running out of room in their home.
It is a complex subject and unfortunately does not have a black-and-white answer. However, in this article, I will answer the question, can you live in a summer house, and explain the reality of this situation.
Legal Considerations and Permits in the UK
There are a host of legal issues relating to living in your summer house and it’s not just a simple case of building the structure and moving in! In most instances, planning permission is required, and the summer house must comply with building regulations.
Permitted Development Rights
Things like summer houses, garden offices, and sheds typically fall under the category of permitted development. These structures don’t require planning permission provided they comply with the regulations.
However, for living in a summer house, this changes the role of the structure and it cannot be classed as a permitted development which means planning permission is required. Even if the summer house does comply with the regulations needed to be classed as a permitted development, to be lived in, planning permission is needed.
Need for Planning Permission for Residential Use
As mentioned above, living in a summer house changes the use of the structure and this means that planning permission is required, and the structure must adhere to building regulations too.
Planning permission can be a long and drawn-out process in the UK and there is no guarantee that you will get approved. It often requires things like speaking to your neighbours and considering how the lived-in summer house will affect them.
The building regulations are quite strict too and a number of considerations have to be made including electricity, water supply, drainage, damp proofing, structural stability, accessibility, and fireproofing. Essentially, because you want to live in the summer house, it has to comply with the same building regulations that your house does!
A standard summer house that you don’t intend to live in requires non of these regulations so it makes for an easier, more cost-effective option.
Council Tax Increase
Depending on the size and purpose of your summer house it may result in an increase in your council tax bill. This is certainly something that you have to declare to your local council and there is the possibility that you have to pay an additional 50% of your council tax for a lived-in summer house. This may depend on your local council and I advise contacting them beforehand to see the implications it has.
Aside from the complex legality of living in a summer house, you want to have a summer house you’ll love and one that is comfortable to live in. This requires far more planning and consideration compared to having a summer house that you use occasionally and don’t intend to live or sleep in.
Comfort and Space
Firstly, summer houses are typically much smaller and even the larger ones give you an equivalent of two rooms worth of space. Does this realistically give you enough room to be comfortable and enjoy living there full-time? Sure, you can go back into your house for more room and comfort, but wouldn’t that defeat the object?
Furniture and Interior Design
A summer house has to be kitted out fully too and for it to be liveable you will need interior design and furniture. For example, if you just want it to be a bedroom you still need a bed, clothes storage, and maybe even a dressing table and mirror.
Multi-Functional Living Areas
Lastly, due to the space restrictions, it’s incredibly difficult to have a summer house that is multi-functional and has multiple designated areas such as a bedroom and living room. Oftentimes it has to have an open-plan design and not everyone likes this.
Is it Worth the Effort to Live in a Summer House?
As you can see, it’s not a simple solution and creating a summer house that you can live in requires much forethought, planning, and research. At the minimum, you must apply for planning permission and make sure your summer house complies with building regulations which are far more difficult to complete as opposed to just having a summer house for basic use.
However, ultimately you must think of the necessity of having a lived-in summer house. Perhaps you need a grammy flat for a parent or relative? Or need extra space but can’t afford to move to a new property? In instances like these, the additional effort required is warranted.