Guide to Building and Planning Permits in the Netherlands

What you need to know when planning to build, alter or demolish property in the Netherlands. With information on how to make an application and the importance of the Building Decree and liability...

Building Rules and Standards

The framework for building rules and standards in Holland is provided by the Housing Act. The main technical document referenced by the Housing Act is the Building Decree (Bouwbesluit), which can be found at the VROM website.  The ministry in charge of planning and building regulations is the Ministry for Infrastructure and the Environment (Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu, IenM).

The Building Decree sets out technical requirements for existing and new construction.

All building and construction in Holland must comply with the Housing Act, and thus with the Building Decree. However, some minor construction work is exempt from assessment and does not require a permit. The "exempt from assessment" category is often misunderstood. When planning to build in Holland, it is suggested to consult with the local building control authority.

Under the Housing Act, municipalities issue building permits, supervise construction work and check permit applications for new developments against the Building Decree. Municipalities are also required to check permit applications against zoning regulations. Permit applications may also be assessed for aesthetic issues.

Permits

A building permit (bouwvergunning) must be obtained for most construction work. A permit is needed to build, modify or demolish a building or change its use, regardless of whether the structure is to be used as a dwelling and whether or not it has foundations. A standard application is used nation-wide.

The building permit application, submitted to the Municipality, must be accompanied with the necessary fees and documentation, including design plans, photos and pertinent reports. Processing time for building permits is regulated; by law, if the assessment is not processed within a fixed period, the permit must be approved. However, the responsible authority has the right to extend assessment time.

There are two types of building permit:

  1. Light permit: for minor construction work
  2. Regular permit: for general purpose construction

Some light construction work can be carried out without permit, such as renovating a kitchen or bathroom. Some minor, non-constructive outdoor work can also be done without a permit. The location of the work is often a major factor in determining the "permit-free" category of construction. For example, when planning to add a shed dormer to the roof of a building, a permit is usually needed when the shed dormer faces the street; but it can often be carried out without a permit when the shed dormer is planned at the back of the building.

An application for a building permit must be made by the owner of the land or someone mandated by them. The national building permit form states which documentation is needed to show the planned building will comply with regulations.

Pre-application consultation

It is suggested to consult with the building regulation enforcement authority (Bouw- en Woningtoezicht) at the local Municipality office before applying for a permit. This consultation can help clarify requirements regarding the building permit application.

  • Take photos of the existing development, concept plans, elevations of proposals and a site plan to the consultation
  • If converting a derelict building, be precise regarding its proposed future use

Note: It is important to clearly understand the expectations and regulations of the Building Decree; consider taking a translator to the consultation.

Planning

Most planning is administrated at the municipal level, though development that exceeds municipal boundaries might be administered on the provincial or national level. Building permits will be checked against the local zoning plan (bestemmingsplan). The zoning plan is the key planning document that contains information regarding planning rights and restrictions. Information on the zoning plan can be obtained at the Municipal offices.

Most municipalities require planned construction to be checked for aesthetic value by a commission (Welstandscommissie), which controls compliance with regulations regarding the external appearance of a building. These regulations are laid down on local level and differ from municipality to municipality.

Getting to Work

Once the building permit is issued, construction work can start. It is suggested to keep the local building control authority informed regarding the progress of the project. During construction, work will be inspected for compliance with the terms of the permit. Once granted a building permit, it should be noted that is also an offence to carry out work that is outside of that which is approved.

It is also a legal offence to undertake construction work without a building permit if one is required. This can result in a fine or in certain circumstances an order for the building to be returned to its pre-construction state.

Liability

The Housing Act clearly states that the owner and/or user of a building or property and the person constructing or demolishing a building is responsible for preventing the building or property; its use; or its construction or demolishment, from causing or continuing a situation which endangers public safety or public health.

Note that the Housing Act does not state that local building control authorities are responsible for safety after the building permit is issued. Therefore, even if an authority makes an error in issuing a building permit, the holder of the permit is still responsible for complying with building regulations.