The construction authorities’ clearance certificate for a construction project is referred to as a building permit.1 A building permit is usually required by anyone planning a construction project. It decides what can be built. Buildings that have not been approved are formally illegal (“illegal construction“).2
The building permit process and the role of the construction authorities are dependent on the respective state building codes of the different German states, which vary from state to state.
In addition to new buildings, conversions, changes of use and demolition work usually also require approval. The individual projects requiring approval are listed in the state building regulations. Regardless of the individual state-specific regulations, the construction authorities work through a rule-checking programme as part of the approval process. This entails a review as defined by public law provisions. This process starts as soon as the planning application is submitted to the respective authority with the building documentation.3
Once the building permit has been received by the applicant in writing, it is considered to be valid. If the project has been approved, the building permit does not have to state its reasons. If planning permission is not granted, there is an obligation to state reasons under general administrative law.4
If only individual parts of a project to be carried out in succession are planned, part building permits can also be applied for in addition to planning permission. Advance decisions on the legal planning admissibility of projects can also generally be obtained.5
A building permit always relates to the respective land and thus can be sold with the land. The respective buyer can exercise the building permit accordingly and the authority would not be able to prevent this.6
If work on the project does not begin within four years of notification of the building permit or part building permit, or if construction is interrupted for four years, the building permit is cancelled automatically. These periods can vary if so stated in the permit notification.7
A copy of the building permit must always be kept on the construction site. Construction work cannot begin until the building permit is in place at the earliest, hence an appropriate examination by the construction companies engaged is necessary; this is also the case given that the permit can affect the contracts for construction work in various ways.8