Construction is a technical subject with a multitude of confusing terms and requirements. Setback is one such term which most people are not aware about. This article attempts to demystify the concept and explain its significance in the real estate industry.

Setback can be explained as the minimum open space required around any building or structure. Municipal regulations provide that a specific distance should be maintained between a building and the boundary of the plot on which the building is being constructed. This distance is necessary to ensure so that the structure stays away from roads, water bodies or other buildings. Setbacks are required at the front, rear and sides of buildings and the specifications vary from one area to another.

What is the importance of a setback?

  • To ensure all buildings receive adequate natural light
  • To ensure sufficient ventilation
  • To protect entities such as water bodies located close to a building from being adversely affected by the construction and human inhabitation
  • To protect one building from the shadow of another, which would otherwise obstruct adequate provision of ventilations and sunlight
  • To protect buildings from noise-causing elements, such as nearby industries, airports or highways
  • To ensure easy access to the buildings

Simply put, the purpose of setbacks is to ensure one building does not infringe on another building’s right to sunlight, ventilation, greenery and vehicular access. The last is made extremely important by the fact that rising building density makes it harder for emergency services, such as fire engines to move around during a mishap.

Architect and interior designer, Alok Bhasin, explains that every city and different areas in one city can have diverse rules concerning setbacks for buildings. “What might be stipulated for a plot in Rajouri Garden might differ from the requirements of a plot in Greater Kailash. Similarly, Gurgaon will have different setback dimensions compared to Delhi,” states Bhasin. The byelaws will primarily depend on the following factors:

  • Size of the plot
  • Whether it is one-side or multi-side open plot
  • Locality or neighbourhood where the plot is located
  • Width of the road on which the plot is located
  • Maximum permitted coverage area in the locality

Bhasin explains further that if a plot has two open sides, say, a road in front and a service lane at the back, it will be called a two-sided open plot. Such a plot will have different setback requirements as compared to a one-sided open plot, where the possibility of receiving light and air is limited to just one side. If the adjoining road is wide, then the setback requirement will be different too. “The better the location and the larger the plot size, the larger the setback requirement,” comments Bhasin.

To explain the concept better, setback requirements for Bangalore as mentioned on Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike’s (BBMP) website have been listed below:

                Height of building

Setbacks (front, side and rear) in mtrs

Above 9.5 m and up to 12 m

4.5

Above 12 m up to 15 m

5.0

Above 15 m up to 18 m

6.0

Above 18 m up to 21 m

7.0

Above 21 m up to 24 m

8.0

Above 24 m up to 27 m

9.0

Above 27 m up to 30 m

10.0

Above 30 m up to 35 m

11.0

Above 35 up to 40 m

12.0

Above 40 up to 45 m

13.0

Above 45 up to 50 m

14.0

Above 50 m

16.0

Source: bbmp.gov.in

Similarly, minimum setbacks (applicable unless specified otherwise) prescribed by Delhi Development Authority (DDA) based on size of plots have been listed below:

Plot size (in sq m)

Front setback

Rear setback

Side setback (1)

Side setback (2)

Below 100

0

0

0

0

Above 100 and up to 250

3

0

0

0

Above 250 and up to 500

3

3

3

0

Above 500 and up to 2000

6

3

3

3

Above 2000 and up to 10000

9

6

6

6

Above 10000

15

9

9

9

Source: indiaenvironmentportal.org.in 

Additionally, buildings over 15 m in height are required to have a setback of 6 m around the building in order to receive the No Objection Certificate (NOC) from Delhi Fire Service. 

Side and rear setbacks:

The side and rear setbacks determine the location of houses and ancillary outbuildings, such as sheds or a garage on a residential plot. Side setbacks are evaluated by the width of the lot, measured at the building line and by the height of the building. At the time of calculation, the height of the building is taken at the closest point to the boundary and not the overall height of the building. For rectangular lots, side and rear setbacks are measured from the property boundaries.

Note: If the average width of the plot is 10 meters and G+2 structure is developed, then side setback is not essential.

Setback variances:

In case you face hardships due to setback requirements, which the owners nearby do not face, you may get a variance, i.e. the permission to encroach the setback. To get the variance, the property must be shaped in a way that limits where you can build the property. Moreover, the shape must be unique to your land. If the majority of properties in your area share the same predicament, you will not qualify for a variance.

So the next time you think of buying or constructing a property, remember it is important to be familiar with the term ‘setback.’

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the minimum setback for a residential building?

The minimum setback distance for a residential building depends on the height of the structure. The taller the structure, the more will be the setback distance.

Can setback violations affect the property transfer?

When buying a home that has been newly constructed, it is imperative to check if the setback is as per the regional norms. If you invest in a home without checking this, you may end up losing the property as it will not receive the No-Objection Certificate (NOC).

Does one have to maintain the ‘setback of building’ all over India?

Yes, the setback rule is followed all over the country. If the homeowner or the developer violates the setback rules, the municipal body may force the owner to vacate the property or reconfigure that portion of the house.

What is the purpose of a setback line?

It is the distance measured in feet between a house or structure from the front, side, and rear. Maintaining the setback line allows easy access to underground utilities. Also, it is crucial for ventilation in the building and parking.