Whether you are planning to build a house or an extension, one of the first things to find out is whether you need a building permit. Bad news first – in general, most building projects require you to apply for a building permit.

However, there are exceptions to the rule and they might be quite generous to what you are used to from other countries (or not, we would love to hear your experiences from before moving here).

These exceptions are outlined in the General Provisions of Environmental Law Act (Wet Algemene Bepalingen Omgevingsrecht). The biggest advantage of these exceptions is that you can build even if your project is in conflict with the zoning plan – the exceptions overrule the zoning plan.

In the following post we will explain how much you can build permit-free in a greater detail and how you should proceed when planning a permit-free building project.

So, what are the steps when determining whether you need a building permit in the Netherlands?


Step 1: Listed building status check

Check whether your property is a listed building or whether it is located in a protected area. Unfortunately, in both of these cases you will always have to apply for a building permit.


Step 2: Calculating the built-up area

If you would like to build or extend without a permit, you need to determine what the development area for your plot is. According to the existing rules the development area consists of the backyard area as well as the ground under the main building, with the exception of the ground under the original main building.

This might not sound very straightforward so let’s delve a bit deeper. By backyard we mean the area located behind the main building, but also the side that is not facing public access. The land under the main building (building with all extensions) is added to it. Subsequently, the land is subtracted from the original main building (i.e. the building without the extensions). The piece of land that remains is your development area. The development area then determines the maximum area which you can build on.


Step 3: Calculating the buildable area

The next step is calculating how much you can build up to. The surface area of all outbuildings must not exceed the result of the diagram below. The outcome therefore depends on the surface of the built-up area, which leads to a number A.

Imagine you have a building area of 220 m2. It means the building area is larger than 100 m2 and smaller than 300 m2. You can build at least 50 m2 over the first 100 m2. According to the scheme, 20% of the part of the built-up area that is larger than 100 m2 is still there, which is 120 m2 in this case. 20% of 120 m2 is 24 m2, with a total of 50 m2 being 74 m2 that is the maximum built up area for all outbuildings on the plot.

Step 4: Adding up outbuildings

Now add up the area of all existing outbuildings in the built-up area. In the context of Dutch building regulations we recognize three types of outbuildings: an annex to a building, an outbuilding with a permit and permit-free outbuildings. All three types must be taken into account when determining the area for permit-free building. Add up the number of square meters of all outbuildings, which will give you a number B.


Step 5: Getting the final number

Subtract the surface of the already existing buildings (number B) from the maximum permitted area (number A). If a positive number comes out, this is the number of square meters where you can build on. If the result is 0 or a negative number, nothing can be added to the existing building.

Let’s take the above example – if the surface of the existing building is smaller than 74 m2, there is still some space left to build on. If the already built-up area is greater than 74 m2, further development is not permitted.



Unlike what it suggests at the first sight, this system does not lead by definition to an expansion of the permit-free area. In the past there used to be a fixed standard of a maximum of 30 m2 that could be added in the backyard area permit-free. After deducting the existing permit-free outbuildings from this surface you would get an area that could still be built on.

Nowadays the total area is much larger, up to 150 m2, but all existing outbuildings must be now subtracted from the surface, including annexes and outbuildings that were built with a permit. This often results in such a large deduction that doesn’t allow for further development opportunities. As such, the permit-free area is these days smaller, not larger.       

Even though extensions are often built permit-free, you should not expect automatically that you will be able to build one.

In conclusion, be careful before you jump at a property with plans for an extension – permit-free building is not possible in every situation.

If you would like more information about building regulations, have a look at this handy brochure published by Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu.


Would you like to discuss your plans with us? 


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