South Dakota Counties With No Building Codes ( Bon Homme & Custer County )

Spread the love

In the vast expanse of South Dakota’s rugged landscape, you can find a unique and sometimes perplexing freedom – the freedom to build without adhering to stringent building codes. While the construction industry is typically bound by regulations and standards, there are several counties in South Dakota that have chosen a different path. In this article, we will embark on a journey through the untamed wilderness of South Dakota to explore the counties with no building codes and the ones with more relaxed building codes.

Understanding Building Codes

Before we dive into the South Dakota counties that have taken a more lenient stance on building regulations, it’s crucial to understand what building codes are and why they exist. Building codes are a set of regulations and standards that dictate how structures must be designed and built to ensure safety, health, and general well-being of the occupants. They cover aspects ranging from structural integrity and electrical systems to plumbing and fire safety. These codes are primarily enforced at the county and city levels. There are a couple of things you should know before moving off the grid in this state, ( Top 7 ) Things To Know Before Living Off The Grid In South Dakota.

South Dakota Counties With No Building Codes

Bon Homme County

One such county where building codes are essentially non-existent is Bon Homme County. This rural oasis in southeastern South Dakota is known for its picturesque landscapes and relaxed approach to construction. In Bon Homme County, you can build without obtaining a building permit or undergoing inspections that are common in most other areas.

While the absence of building codes might be appealing to those who value freedom and autonomy in their construction projects, it also raises concerns about safety and quality. Without codes in place, there’s the potential for subpar construction practices that could jeopardize the safety of occupants. It’s a delicate balance between personal freedom and public safety.

Custer County

Custer County, located in the southwestern part of South Dakota, presents an intriguing case of relaxed building codes rather than a complete absence of them. Here, you can obtain a building permit without jumping through the usual hoops. In essence, it’s a more relaxed and straightforward process compared to the stringent regulations in some other areas.

The interesting thing about Custer County is that it’s home to the famous Black Hills, a region known for its stunning natural beauty and iconic landmarks like Mount Rushmore. As you can imagine, the appeal of living in such a picturesque location has attracted residents who desire the flexibility to build their homes and structures with minimal government intervention.

A Patchwork of Regulation

South Dakota, like many other states in the U.S., has a decentralized system when it comes to building codes. This means that the responsibility of implementing and enforcing building codes largely rests with local governments, such as counties and municipalities. The result is a patchwork of regulations, with different counties in South Dakota adopting varying levels of stringency in their building codes or, in some cases, having no building codes at all. If you want to know more about the off grid laws in this state, then check out my recent article South Dakota Off Grid Laws ( Step By Step Guide ).

Pros and Cons of No Building Codes

The absence of building codes or relaxed regulations certainly has its pros and cons. Let’s take a closer look at what makes these approaches to construction unique.


  1. Freedom of Choice: In counties with no building codes, property owners have the freedom to design and construct their structures according to their preferences without excessive red tape.
  2. Cost Savings: Skipping the permit and inspection process can save property owners money and reduce construction timelines.
  3. Rural Appeal: Many South Dakota counties with lenient or no building codes are in rural or remote areas, which appeals to those seeking solitude and independence.


  1. Safety Concerns: The primary concern with relaxed or absent building codes is the potential for unsafe and low-quality construction, which can pose risks to both occupants and neighboring properties.
  2. Property Value: The lack of regulations can lead to haphazard development, potentially affecting the property values of neighboring homes.
  3. Environmental Impact: Inadequate oversight can result in construction practices that harm the environment, particularly in areas with fragile ecosystems.

The Influence of Local Culture

To understand why some South Dakota counties have chosen to forgo or ease building code regulations, it’s essential to consider the cultural and historical factors at play. South Dakota, like many parts of the American West, has a strong streak of rugged individualism and a pioneering spirit.

In these regions, self-reliance and personal freedom are highly prized values. The idea that government regulations should be kept to a minimum resonates with many residents who want to live by their own rules on their own land. This cultural aspect plays a significant role in shaping the approach to building codes. If you want to know where to live off the grid in this state then check out my recent article Where To Live Off The Grid In South Dakota? ( Top 15 Counties ).

Safety Concerns and Challenges

While the freedom to build as one pleases is enticing, it’s not without its challenges. The absence of building codes or lax regulations can lead to issues related to safety and infrastructure.

Fire Safety

One of the significant concerns in areas with relaxed building codes is fire safety. Without codes dictating fire-resistant materials and safe construction practices, structures may be more vulnerable to fires. In remote areas like South Dakota, where firefighting resources can be limited, the risk is even greater.

Infrastructure Strain

A surge in construction without adequate oversight can strain local infrastructure, such as roads, water supply, and sewage systems. This strain can affect the quality of life for both new and existing residents.

Environmental Impact

South Dakota is known for its stunning natural landscapes and fragile ecosystems. In areas with weak or no building codes, there’s a risk of environmental damage due to poorly planned and executed construction.