My neighbour built a huge garden shed to live in, can I stop him?

PROPERTY CLINIC: My neighbours built a shed at the bottom of the garden, moved in and now rent out their main house – what can I do?

  • These so-called ‘beds in sheds’ are far more common than you might think
  • It is surprising to hear that your local council won’t do anything to help you
  • Planning expert outlines your options and why the shed may be unlawful 

My neighbours have built a huge shed at the bottom of their garden, next to my fence. 

It feels nearly as big as the house itself and while originally they said it was for storage and a gym, they have moved in and are now renting out their main house.

Is there anything I can do to stop this?  RB

Beds in sheds: They are more common than you may think, according to a leading planning expert (stock image)

Myra Butterworth, MailOnline Property expert, replies: In an instance such as this, it sounds like planning permission should be required – and yet this has not happened.

We spoke to a planning expert about what steps you can take to stop the shed being used as an unauthorised permanent family home. 

Martin Gaine, a chartered town planner, replies: While you might admire their entrepreneurial zeal, it is a sad reflection of the state of our dysfunctional housing market that it makes financial sense for a family to move into an oversized garden shed and rent out their main house.

These ‘beds in sheds’ are far more common than you might think, and the Government is determined to close them down, awarding extra funding to councils in areas where the problem is particularly acute.

From a planning point of view, the development is straightforwardly unacceptable.

Householder permitted development rights (PDR) allow you to cover up to half of your garden with outbuildings without the need for planning permission, but under the strict proviso that they cannot be built as living accommodation, and can certainly not be used as separate, self-contained family houses.

By moving into the outbuilding and renting out the main house, your neighbours have brought about a change of use that needs planning permission. 

If they moved into the outbuilding more than four years ago, the development might now be lawful by the passage of time, but I understand from your question that this has happened recently.

You should contact your local council’s planning enforcement team. They will investigate the complaint and, if appropriate, require your neighbours to move out of the outbuilding and to demolish it. 

Planning enforcement complaints are anonymous, so your neighbour will not be told that it has come from you.

You could also approach the council’s building control and housing teams – who will want to check that the ‘house’ is well built, energy efficient and safe to live in -, and have their own powers in relation to poor quality living accommodation.

If you have trouble getting the council to act, approach your local ward councillors. They are your voice within the council and can escalate the matter within the relevant departments.

  • Martin Gaine is a chartered town planner and author of ‘How to Get Planning Permission – An Insider’s Secrets’ 

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