What are building permits?
The Building Act 1993 (the Act) and Building Regulations 2006 (the Regulations) legislate that all building work is subject to the issuing of a building permit, unless an exemption exists for the proposed work under the Regulations. This includes some minor alterations, demolitions, and repair or maintenance work.
- A building permit will specify when an occupancy permit is required or when a certificate of final inspection is necessary on completion of the building work.
- A building permit is a document that certifies that the Relevant Building Surveyor has approved the plans and documentation before your project begins.
When do I need a Building Permit?
In most cases a Building Permit is required for building work or new buildings, particularly if significant building work is occurring on land or on an existing building. The types of buildings or building work that commonly require a building permit may include:
- New houses
- Sheds, carports & garages
- Verandas & certain pergolas
- Fences & retaining walls
- Restumping & underpinning
- Swimming pools and spas (including pool barriers)
- Lighting towers & masts
- Farm buildings
- Change of use of an existing building
- New shops, factories, offices, restaurants, schools, hospitals, etc. (any building used for a commercial purpose)
- Installation, alterations or removal of any Essential Safety Measure
- Alterations or additions to any existing buildings (regardless of cost or size)
- Internal alterations to a building
There are instances where some building work is of such a minor nature that it will be exempt from a building permit. In these cases, Schedule 8 of the Building Regulations 2006 (the Regulations) exempts owners from having to obtain a building or occupancy permit. In any case, you should obtain written advice from Council’s Building Unit to determine if a building permit is required or not.
For further information contact Council’s Building Unit on 5722 0888 or the following documents may also be referred to for more information:
Why are building permits issued?
Building permits are issued to ensure that the proposed building work complies with the Act and Regulations.
The Act and Regulations provide benefits to consumers; they establish, maintain and improve standards for the construction and maintenance of buildings, enhance the amenity of buildings and ensure the safety of people who use them.
Why obtain a building permit?
Obtaining a building permit ensures:
- The required building practitioners are registered and carry the required insurance(s).
- Adequate documentation is prepared to enable compliant construction of the proposed building.
- An independent review of building documentation occurs.
- Key stages of the work are independently inspected.
- Your building is independently assessed as suitable for occupation.
- Other benefits for owners include compliance with building legislation prior to building work commencing.
Undertaking building work without obtaining the necessary building permit is a serious offence and can result in severe penalties. The Act prescribes a penalty of 500 penalty units for anyone carrying out building work without a permit. This equates to an amount in excess of $70,000.
Are there exemptions for certain types of building work?
The Regulations provide exemptions from the requirement to obtain a building permit for some works that are generally minor in nature. Examples of exemptions may include certain pergolas associated with houses, garden sheds with a floor area less than 10m2 and repair work done for maintenance purposes, such as replacing rotted weatherboards.
Please note: These exemptions do not relate to town planning or other statutory approvals.
It is suggested that you seek advice from council whenever building work is proposed, to confirm whether a building or planning permit is required.
How do I apply for a building permit and who do I apply to?
Before applying for a building permit, you need to choose a building surveyor. You may choose either a municipal building surveyor or a private building surveyor. Your architect or builder can apply on your behalf for the permit but you must first authorise the architect or builder in writing to make the application.
Do not sign a blank form authorising others to obtain all permits for you and always check that a permit has been issued before any work commences.
Applying for a permit requires you to:
- Apply for the building permit through your choice of building surveyor
- Pay the appropriate fee, building permit levy and submit at least three copies of drawings, specifications and allotment plans along with the completed application form and other prescribed information, including a current copy of title and proof of ownership.
What is the process once I have made application for a building permit?
Once your building permit application has been lodged with a building surveyor, they will check for compliance with the Act and Regulations, ask for further information to be provided if required, and can then decide to issue a building permit with or without conditions.
In some instances they may refuse to issue a permit. If a permit is refused, you can either alter the application to comply with the Regulations or appeal the refusal of the permit to the Building Appeals Board.
What is the Building Permit Levy?
The Building Act 1993 imposes a Building Permit Levy. The Levy is paid by an applicant for a building permit and must be paid before the permit can be issued. The levy is collected by the building surveyor and forwarded to the Victorian Building Authority by monthly return.
Lapsed permits – My permit is about to expire, what should I do?
Under ordinary circumstances, the building work will have commenced and been completed before the expiry of the prescribed time periods. If for some reason circumstances prevent the commencement or completion of the building work by the nominated date, you may do one of the following:
- Before the relevant date passes, seek an extension of the time in which the building work must be commenced and/or completed from the relevant building surveyor who issued the permit. The relevant building surveyor may grant an extension if the extent of the building work warrants it. If the building surveyor refuses to grant an extension of time for the building permit, you may appeal the decision to refuse the extension of time to the Building Appeals Board; or
- Apply for a determination from the Building Appeals Board to modify regulation 315(4) of the Regulations to allow the relevant building surveyor to extend the time limits of the building permit.
Lapsed permits – What happens if a permit lapses?
If a building permit lapses but building work continues, that work then becomes illegal and the relevant building surveyor should issue a stop work order.
What does it mean if I choose to be an owner-builder?
An owner-builder is someone who takes on most of the responsibility for domestic building work carried out on their land. As an owner-builder you would need to obtain building permits, supervise or undertake the building work, and ensure the work meets building regulations and standards. In Victoria, an owner-builder can only build or renovate one house every three years, and must intend to live in the house once completed.
When are occupancy permits required?
A building permit will state whether you require either an occupancy permit or a certificate of final inspection prior to occupation or use of the building. Building work for a new home (including units or apartments) will always require an occupancy permit to be issued. It is an offence to occupy a new home that does not have an occupancy permit.
I live in a rural area and want to build a farm shed. Do I need a building permit?
Any new shed with a floor area greater than 10m2 requires a building permit.
The Rural City of Wangaratta previously had a policy for the exemption of a building permit for some farm buildings meeting certain criteria; however this was revoked by Council in August 2015.
It is suggested that you seek advice from Council whenever any building work is proposed, to confirm whether a building or planning permit is required.
Can I prepare my own building plans?
Anyone can prepare building plans for their own use. However, you must have a good understanding about the minimum documentation requirements for an application for a building permit, be familiar with drawing conventions and practices and an understanding of the requirements of relevant legislative provisions under the Building Act 1993 and Building Regulations 2006. If drawings or other details are not of an adequate standard you may be required to re-produce the drawings or your application for building permit may be refused.
Where can I find out about Bushfire Prone Areas (mapping)?
Victoria has now developed on-line Bushfire Prone Area (BPA) maps. The bushfire prone areas have been determined using the most recent available scientific information and data. The maps can be viewed at www.land.vic.gov.au.
If your proposed residential building is within a BPA then a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) assessment is required. If that BAL is determined as low, the construction requirements must still meet a minimum of BAL 12.5 as detailed in AS 3959 – 2009.
Is a permit required for a front fence?
A front fence more than 1.5m in height requires a Building Permit and may also require a Planning Permit. A Permit is required for any front fence greater than 1m in height constructed within 9m of street corner alignment boundary lines. A Building Permit is required for any masonry front fence exceeding 1.2m in height.
Is a permit required for a side or rear fence?
No, providing the fence height is less than 1.5m within 3m from the street alignment and the reminder of the fence is not greater than 2m high. Fencing between allotments must be approved by both landowners. All enquiries in relation to fences between neighbouring properties should be referred to the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria which specialise in these matters – free call 1800 658 528.
What do I do if I want to put in a pool?
You may contact Council’s Building Department on 03 5722 0888 or a private building surveyor for advice and building approval.
Is a permit required for an above ground swimming pool?
Yes, any permanent pool that holds more than 300mm of water requires a building permit and must be enclosed by a pool safety barrier.
What are the regulations for pool fencing?
Brochures are available for pool fencing requirements from the Building Services counter.
Is a building permit required for a garage, shed, verandah or pergola?
Building Permits are required for all buildings greater than 10m2 in area and pergolas (unroofed structure) greater than 20m2.
Can I obtain a copy of my house plans?
Owners may request house plans subject to completing the "Request for copies of house plans and documents” form and paying the appropriate fee.
Is it possible to obtain copies of building statistics for the month?
This will depend on what statistics are required. Council may provide just building activity figures for a certain time frame under some circumstances. Building registers may be viewed for information at the Building and Planning Services counter.
Do I require a permit for works under $5,000?
Yes. The $5,000 rule was removed from the Regulations in June 2005.
Can I build over an easement?
This will depend on who the easement is in favour of, however, Council will generally not support applications for consent to build over an easement.
Can I look at house plans before we purchase a property?
Plan retrieval and copies of documents may only be granted with the written consent of the current property owner.
When do I need to get a Plumbing Certificate and why do I need it?
A compliance certificate is issued by a licensed plumber to certify the work they do complies with the relevant plumbing standards, codes and regulations. A licensed plumber is required to lodge the compliance certificate with the Victorian Building Authority.
Who do I contact about asbestos in the home?
Information regarding asbestos can be obtained by contacting the Council's Environment Health Department or the Department of Human Services (DHS) on (03) 9637 4156.DHS have prepared a number of useful and easy to read booklets which provide all the information you need to know on what products contain asbestos and how to deal with the repair and disposal of these products.The Council does have available a booklet produced by DHS which is free and available to any person seeking information about asbestos.
Most homes constructed prior to 1990 will contain some material containing asbestos. Asbestos is commonly found in such materials as cement sheeting for floors, walls and roofs, in cement products such as tiles and gutters, and floor tiles.