Building Permits

The Building Act 1993 (“the Act”) and Building Regulations 2018 (“the Regulations”) legislate that all building work is subject to the issuing of a building permit, unless an exemption applies under schedule 3 of the Regulations. This relates to some minor work, repairs and maintenance. If you are unsure we can help you determine whether a building permit is required for your project.

Building activity in Victoria in governed by the above legislative framework for the regulation of building design, construction, maintenance and standards  in order to enhance the amenity, sustainability and safety of our built environment.  

It is important to note the difference between planning permits and building permits. Planning Permits deal with the use and development of land, whereas building permits deal with the approval of specific buildings and structures to be erected on the land. If you are unsure whether your project required a planning permit you can contact Town Planning on (03) 5559 4800, because if you need a planning permit this must be issued before a building permit can be issued.

What is a building permit?

Do I need a building permit?

A building permit will specify who is undertaking the work, by when it must commence and be completed, it will note the mandatory inspection stages and record the relevant insurance and planning permit information applicable to the building work.  

The building Permit will come with approved building plans, specifications and other documents related to the building design and construction.

It is also important to know that an occupancy permit or a certificate of final inspection is required on completion of the building work, once all mandatory inspections have been approved as part of the building permit process. If you are unsure please feel free to seek advice from City Building Services or your relevant building surveyor.

How do I get a building permit?

You can make an application to any registered building surveyor.

There are two types of building surveyor:

  • Private building surveyors (private practitioners who often advertise in the Yellow Pages)
  • Municipal building surveyors (Councils)

Application for a Building permit

What is a building surveyor and what do they do?

Building surveyors are authorised to assess building plans with a view to ensuring they comply with the Building Act 1993, the Building Regulations 2018 and the National Construction Code.

Building surveyors are responsible for ensuring buildings are safe, accessible and energy efficient, and therefore have an impact on the design, planning and functionality of buildings.

A building surveyor remains involved for the duration of the building project. They carry out inspections – or have a building inspector carry out inspections on their behalf – to sign off each mandatory notification stage of construction.

You can only appoint one building surveyor to a building project.

Once building work is complete, the building surveyor is responsible for issuing the occupancy permit or certificate of final inspection.

A registered building surveyor is authorised to:

  • Assess building permit applications for compliance with the Building Act 1993, Building Regulations 2018 and National Construction Code
  • Issue building and occupancy permits, and certificates of final inspection
  • Conduct building inspections at the mandatory notification stages
  • Serve Direction to Fix non-compliant building work
  • Serve building notices and orders under the Building Act 1993

Illegal building works

Building work is illegal when a building permit is not issued for construction work that requires a building permit.

Legislative requirements

Part 16 of the Building Act 1993 states:

A person must not carry out building works unless a building permit in respect of the work has been issued and is in force under this Act and the work is carried out in accordance with this Act, the Building Regulations and the permit.

Penalties for such breaches can range from 500 penalty units ($82,610) for an individual to 2500 penalty units ($413,050) in the case of a body corporate.

A building permit cannot be issued retrospectively for the works already carried out.

Where illegal building work has occurred Council can issue a Building Notice giving you the opportunity to show cause (indicate in writing) why the works were carried out without first obtaining a building permit.  You have 30 days from the date of the Notice to respond.

Included in your response above, should be an indication of whether you wish to retain the works or alternatively wish to demolish/remove the works carried out without a building permit.

At this point you are not permitted to do any further works including the demolition/removal of the illegal works.  You must only respond in writing to the Municipal Building Surveyor within the 30 days.

Demolition or removal of illegal works

The Council (Municipal Building Surveyor) will issue a Building Order giving you directions as to what works need to be done to reinstate the building/land to its original condition.  No work can be carried out until you have received this Building Order.

Process to legitimise the illegal building works

  1. Once you have decided to retain the structure and you have responded to the Building Notice advising Council of your intention, you will need to engage the services of a Registered Building Practitioner to prepare a report to the Municipal Building Surveyor advising on the adequacy of the illegal building work.  This will require the practitioner to inspect the works and he/she may then request additional information to support the retention of the work. In order to do so, you may be required to engage other consultants – registered building practitioners to prepare the architectural, structural plans, fire engineering reports, and/or others to justify/verify the illegal work.  (Again no works can be carried out at this point and all costs associated with the above will be your responsibility.)
  2. The report returned to the Council (Municipal Building Surveyor) will need to include relevant plans showing the location and construction of the work (similar to plans required to be submitted with a Building Application).  It will need to detail compliance with the Building Act, Building Regulations, National Construction Code (NCC) and Australian Standards.  The Registered Building Practitioner will also need to provide a signed Certificate of Compliance – confirming inspection dates and compliance with the relevant NCC and Australian Standard(s).  Should rectification work be required/recommended, a list of works will also need to be submitted for review, by the Municipal Building Surveyor. (Again all costs incurred to achieve the above will be your responsibility.)
  3. Upon receipt of the above report prepared by the Registered Building Practitioner the Municipal Building Surveyor will review the information and make a determination as to whether the illegal building work can be retained.  If it is considered that the works are satisfactory then the Building Notice will be cancelled.  If the illegal building work require rectification or are deemed unsuitable, the Municipal Building Surveyor will issue a Building Order to carry out a program of works.  Any cost incurred to carry out the building work nominated on the Building Order will be your responsibility.

Registered Building Practitioner Reports

You will be required to engage a Building Surveyor to prepare the above report.

The Building Surveyor you choose will need to be registered with the Victorian Building Authority and any illegal building work must fall within the category for the ‘limitation’ attached to the Building Surveyor’s registration.  Information is available from the Victorian Building Authority and the restrictions are associated with ‘Limited’ and ‘Unlimited’ Building Surveyors.

Registered Building Surveyors

You will need to engage a ‘Private’ Building Surveyor to prepare the above report on your behalf. You can find them in the yellow pages, through the Victorian Building Authority or the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors.  The costs for their services will vary and so we recommend you obtain three quotes.

Report submission

The report and supporting information will need to be submitted within 30 days from the date on the initial Building Notice.

If you do not provide the above within the specified time frame the Municipal Building Surveyor may issue a Building Order to remove/demolish the illegal building works. However, if you have a legitimate reason for not being able to meet this time frame, you will need to request an extension of time in writing, from the Municipal Building Surveyor.

A person must not carry out building works unless a building permit in respect of the work has been issued and is in force under this Act and the work is carried out in accordance with this Act, the Building Regulations and the permit.