Building works and permits
What is building work?
The term 'domestic building work' is a broad one. What does it actually cover? The different components of domestic building work are briefly outlined below:
- Bathroom, kitchen or laundry renovations
- Cabinet-making and joinery
- Demolition work
- Doors and windows
- Earthworks and excavations
- External cladding to a home
- Garages and carports
- Gates and fences
- Retaining walls
- Shade structures
- Site works involved in relocating a dwelling
- Structural landscaping
- Swimming pools
A domestic builder may be able to carry out all of this work, or be limited to specific components, depending on their category of registration. The category is listed on the builder's certificate of registration.
- Visit the Victorian Building Authority http://www.vba.vic.gov.au/consumers for more information.
When is a building permit required?
A building permit is required for most building work, however some building work is of such a minor nature that the protections and advantages that a building permit can provide are not necessary, or will not be achieved. In these cases, Schedule 3 of the Building Regulations 2018 exempts owners from having to obtain a building or occupancy permit.
- See the PN-32-When-is-a-building-permit-required.pdf factsheet for more information.
Who can issue a building permit?
Prior to 1 July 1994 building permits and approvals could only be obtained from the local council, which was then responsible for carrying out all building work inspections etc.
Since the introduction of the Building Act on 1 July 1994, property owners have had a choice as to who can carry out building permit services and functions. A building permit can now be obtained through the many building surveyores that issue permits in our Shire.
An application for a building permit (and therefore the choice of building surveyor) can only be made by the owner of land or a person acting as an agent of the owner, often a professional such as the architect, draftsperson or builder. A person acting as the owner’s agent must, however, have the written authority the owner to do so.
The building surveyor who issues the building permit is generally responsible for ensuring that the building work complies with the requirements of the Building Act 1993 and any Building Regulations made under that Act. The Building Act contains provisions to promote that only one building surveyor carries out the required functions in regards to issuing permits and carrying out inspections. That building surveyor may, however, engage qualified and registered building inspectors to carry out the building inspections during the course of construction.
The building surveyor appointed to issue a building permit in respect of particular building work has power to enforce compliance with the Building Act and Building Regulations through various methods including issuing building notices and orders.
A person who fails to comply with a building order can be prosecuted in the Magistrates Court.
Checklists for building and renovating
Consumer Affairs Victoria provides lots of great resources, including checklists to help guide you through your building or renovating project – whether building a new home, adding an extension or landscaping.
- See Consumer Affairs Victoria’s Checklists for building and renovating
The difference between building permits and planning permits
Building permits relate specifically to the carrying out of building construction. However, there are times when a planning permit may also be required.
Planning permits are legal documents giving permission for a land use or development, and may be required by your local council. If a planning permit is required, it must be obtained before a building permit can be issued, however, both applications can be made at the same time.
A planning permit does not remove the need to obtain a building permit.
The best way to find out whether you need a planning permit is to contact us.
- See Victorian Building Authority website https://www.vba.vic.gov.au/consumers/home-renovation-essentials/permits for further information
Certificate of Final Inspection
The building permit states that a Certificate of Final Inspection is required when the building work has been completed. A Certificate of Final Inspection is issued by the relevant building surveyor after approval of the final inspection stage.
Certificates of Final Inspection are issued for alterations and/or additions to an existing dwelling, verandahs, sheds, garages also swimming pools and safety barriers.
The purpose of the certificate of final inspection is to close off the permit and identify a start date for the builders’ warrantee and liability period for building faults.
Essential safety measures
Essential safety measures are installations that improve a building’s safety. They assist in reducing risk to life and property in the event of an emergency, such as a fire, unexpected fall or other accident. Essential services include equipment and protective devices such as:
- Hose reels
- Fire extinguishers
- Fire alarm systems
- Exit doors
- Emergency lighting
- Sprinkler systems.
When the building has been completed, whether the building is being constructed or altered the building surveyor will either issue an Occupancy Permit or a Certificate of Final Inspection. Both of these documents will contain a list of the structure's essential safety measures and list when the maintenance installations are to be checked and how often this needs to be undertaken.
- See the Victorian Building Authority’s Essential Safety Measures https://www.vba.vic.gov.au/search?query=essential+services
If you wish to be an owner-builder, the https://www.vba.vic.gov.au/owner-builders can assist with most of your questions relating to what is required and what your responsibilities are.
If the value of the proposed building work is more than $16,000 (including labour costs and materials), you will need to apply for a certificate of consent.
You must provide the certificate of consent to your building surveyor in order to obtain a building permit. See VBA’s website for information on how to apply for the Certificate of Consent.
The owner builder application kit is the first part of the process, and if all the information that is requested and supplied to the Victorian Practitioners Board then a Certificate of Consent as an owner builder is issued for your project.
If you are thinking about being an owner-builder? Understand the risks and responsibilities.
What does it mean to be an owner-builder?
An owner-builder is not involved in the building industry but takes on the responsibility for building works or renovations carried out on their own property.
There are both pros and cons to being an owner-builder, and it is important that you understand all of them before making a decision.
Completing a building project as an owner-builder can give you greater control over a project, save on the cost of the builder’s margin and give you a higher degree of flexibility.
This can be a highly attractive proposition, whether you are building a veranda, or subdividing your land to build a townhouse.
On the flipside, being an owner-builder also carries greater risks. You take responsibility for the work (both while it is underway and for six and a half years after it is completed) and the related financing, and you may end up spending more money or time on the project than expected.
If you are considering undertaking a project as an owner-builder, it’s important to be prepared.
Things to think about before becoming an owner-builder:
- In Victoria, an owner-builder can only build or renovate one property every five years and must intend to live in the property once completed
- If the value of the proposed domestic building work is more than $16,000 (including labour costs and materials), you must apply for a certificate of consent from the VBA to become an owner-builder
- If you sell your home after carrying out building work valued at more than $16,000, you continue to be liable for any defective works for six-and-a-half years from the completion of the work
- You must purchase domestic building insurance before entering into a contract to sell your property. This insurance covers future owners for defective works if you die, disappear or become insolvent
- You must get relevant planning permits from your local council, and be named as the owner-builder on permits
- It is your responsibility to ensure that the work meets building regulations, standards and other laws
- You must arrange for building inspections as required by law at particular stages of the building work.
There are several government departments that can provide further assistance.
For guidance on becoming an owner-builder, head to https://www.vba.vic.gov.au/owner-builders/being-an-owner-builder
For information on insurance requirements, visit dbi.vmia.vic.gov.au
For general owner-builder advice, go to consumer.vic.gov.au/ownerbuilders
Lapsed building permits
As an owner, if you have engaged a private building surveyor, and for whatever reason the building work is not going ahead, you need to advise both the Victorian Building Authority and the Council in writing.
For more information, refer to Section 81 of the Building Act.
During a building project, a dispute may arise between the builder and home owner(s). If you become involved in such a dispute, you should attempt to resolve the issue directly with the other party before taking any further action.
- If you are a homeowner, please view information on how to address a building dispute on the Building disputes, defects and delays page on the Consumer Affairs Victoria website.
- If you are a builder, please view the dispute resolution information on the Builders and tradespeople page on the Consumer Affairs Victoria website.
If the issue remains unresolved after you attempted to resolve it on your own, you can visit the Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDRV) website to lodge an online application for dispute resolution.
DBDRV provides building disputes resolution without the cost and time often associated with courts and tribunals, and has the power to issue legally binding dispute resolution orders and certificates.
For more information, please visit the DBDRV website or call the Building Information Line on 1300 557 559.