Small shed in backyard, now Berkeley wants to call it habitable

We built a shed with a deck off one corner in our yard last year under the requirements for appropriate shed size (under 120 Sq foot). We did not get it permitted because the code in Berkeley says if it is under that size and under 12 foot average height, you do not need to permit it. The shed was then painted with some windows and a large door. Now the city of Berkeley says we can't have a shed be "nonhabitable" if it has windows and a deck. They are considering it "habitable" because of this and want a building permit. There is nothing in the code that says this (if it has a deck or windows it is considered habitable) ANYWHERE. literally nothing. the shed is exactly that, something where our crap is stored, no one sleeps or stays in there, we do not rent it out, we do not spend time in it. But the city wants it permitted as a "habitable" structure because it looks nice and because there is a deck with windows. It is bogus. When we built it we asked all our adjacent neighbors if they were ok with it and everyone said yes.

The shed will not stand up to building code, it is not built to live in! It would have to be completely remodeled for tens of thousands of dollars if we wanted to do that. Has anyone else dealt with this? We are at a loss. 

Parent Replies

New responses are no longer being accepted.

I am not sure who is telling you this since you didn't go through the permit process - an inspector making a spot house call? Weird, and that means yes one of your neighbors reported you. I would contact your councilmember's office for assistance, and include the code section that says under 120 sf is exempt.

Hi, I'm a GC in Berkeley, build outdoor structures, treehouses, some sheds, decks, etc. I don't know if I can help you right off, I've never heard of the building department (in berkeley or anywhere) come up with such requirements, ie no windows. If I may ask, how did they recome aware of the situation? If you don't know, it sounds like it could have been a neighbor complaining. I build treehouses with windows, as long as they're less than 120sf and not over 12 ft high, I don't worry about it. Very interested in knowing more.

I'd send them a copy of their own building code and notate that there is nothing in the code about a shed having windows and deck around it, it must be permitted.  Seems unfortunate that the CoB is going to lengths like this to harass people who have tool sheds.

Wish I were an attorney to give you a more concrete strategy, but like you said, this is bogus.

Something is out of whack here. Windows do not make a shed habitable; many sheds have windows. Similarly, a deck does not need a permit if it is under 200 square feet and not attached to a dwelling. I assume your shed does not have any electricity or plumbing, so you need to document that for the City too. (If it does, then yes, unfortunately you needed a permit for it.) I also agree that it's likely that a neighbor called it in, so I'd be sure you are also compliant with any setback rules Berkeley has and reach out to neighbors who may be upset. Good luck!