A family living in a shipping container in Northern Tasmania has been dealt a cruel blow.
The Meander Valley Council has intervened in a move which will cost them thousands of dollars.
The council is investigating "the possible occupation of a shipping container without the required occupancy permit".
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Deanna Buchanan has been living with her husband and two adult children in the shipping container on a friend's property at Birralee.
After her husband had to leave work because of a heart attack and she was retrenched, they could no longer afford the rent at Deloraine where they had been living.
Ms Buchanan is distraught at the council's investigation.
"I just don't know what to do - it is a big kick in the guts," she said.
"We have had one visit from the council and a letter and we haven't got the thousands of dollars it will cost for the permit. I know the council has a job to do but it's just another blow."
Meander Valley Council general manager Martin Gill said the council was obliged to act if it became aware of building works that did not have permits.
"We haven't had any specific complaints about the property but after reading about it [in The Examiner] we had to act," Mr Gill said.
"If they decide to legitimise the building they will have to get planning and building permits. A building surveyor will have to ensure that the buildings comply with the Building Act 2016."
It is believed a building surveyor could cost between $5000 and $10,000.
Mr Gill said the work would have to be done by a private building surveyor because the council did not employ its own surveyors.
He conceded there could be other properties in the municipality that had not received planning or building permits.
Mr Gill said he understood the circumstances that had led to the family living in a shipping container and adding a living area to it and sympathised with their plight.
"We have obligations under the Building Act (state legislation) that we have to comply with," he said.
Labor's housing spokeswoman Alison Standen described the council's move as mean spirited.
"This is a heartless and cold move by the council and we would encourage the council to take a more compassionate approach," Ms Standen said.
"Hundreds of Tasmanian families are desperate and are sleeping in tents, caravans and cars as well as in garages, sheds or couch-surfing, while countless others are sleeping rough.
"This family reached a point where they were at the end of the road with no other option.
"At a time of a housing and homelessness crisis, it seems incredibly mean spirited of the council to take steps to take away the only shelter they could find."
There is a chance that the living area they built from iron next to the shipping container may have to be pulled down.
Ms Buchanan has applied for public housing but has no idea how long she will have to wait.
"We're all suffering anxiety, it is just awful," she said.
"The owner of the property we are staying on is a very private person and has done us a favour and now he will have people coming out on his land. It will interfere with his privacy.
"We only planned to stay a while but it has been a long time now.
"It is freezing and the power is dickie and stops every five minutes."
Her husband, who worked for Worksafe, had a heart attack and had to leave work. She then lost her job when the business she worked for closed down and has been unable to find work.
The couple's 34-year-old son and 23-year-old daughter who is on sickness benefits live with them.