Why you need a building permit – and how to get one

June 04, 2016

If you are thinking about doing any kind of building or renovation work, you will need to obtain a building permit before you even lift a hammer. But once it comes through you can go fast and even do your skip hire on the same day!

A permit is required for most kinds of work; whether you are building a new structure, demolishing an old one or renovating an existing place. And if the renovation is being done in stages, you will need to obtain a permit each time you begin a new project.

This may feel like a monotonous task, but there is good reason why people need a building permit – and there are harsh penalties if you skip this step!

The building permit is in place so that there is a system of control for all work being carried out. The permit shows that all necessary checks and inspections have been made, and that everyone is complying to an overall standard. For the individual, getting building permits is also another safety net for you as it ensures that all practitioners are registered and carry insurance, and it will also mean everyone has to stick to a certain level of safety – meaning the building you end up living in will be a safe structure.

A building permit will cost you money, but there is no set fee and the final amount will depend on each individual project. Costs are determined by a few factors such as size, scale and complexity of the proposed building project. Although paying for a permit may feel like a waste of good money, it really is worth it when you consider the safety net factors as mentioned above. If any of your build is non-compliant or unsafe so therefore you are either fined or it needs to be re-done, the cost of a permit in comparison to that doesn’t seem so bad.

How to apply for a permit

  1. Before applying, you should talk to your neighbours. This is not only the polite thing to do (and let’s face it, if you are living next door to these people for the next few years it’s best not to start out on the wrong foot), but it will also give you an indication of any objections that might arise once your application is lodged. If your neighbours object to a specific part of your building that they feel impinges on their privacy or light, you can make any compromise or changes to plans early in the process.
  2. First of all, make sure you actually need a permit. It is highly likely that you do need one, but in some instances – such as very small changes – you might be exempt. It is a good idea to go to your local council and check on this point before going any further. The bonus of doing this early is also that you will find out if there are ways of going ahead with your renovations without needing a permit. For example, if it’s just a matter of some slight tweaking to your plans and you can save yourself the hassle and cost of getting permits then it might be worth making those changes.
  3. While you are talking to the local council, find out about all of the restrictions and requirements for building in your area. When you are creating plans with your draftsperson or builder, you can keep all of these regulations in mind. This will eventually save you time going back and forth with council if you know upfront what will likely be rejected or approved.
  4. Once the plans are ready, present them to council for feedback.
  5. Lodge your application with council.

Once the approval comes through you will be given a time frame in which your building works have to be completed. This is a very important point and something that needs to be communicated to all parties.

It’s too hard – who can help?

If you are feeling rather daunted by the task of obtaining a building permit, don’t worry, help can be at hand. You can nominate someone else to be your certifier, such as a building surveyor, architect or draftsperson. They can do all of the leg work in sourcing the permit on your behalf, and this is usually a great option as these people have done it before so they know what they are doing. However, even if you have someone else obtain the permit on your behalf you should understand that every person involved in the building process is responsible for making sure there is a permit in place. You, as the homeowner, should take responsibility to make sure the paperwork is done or you will face some serious fines. And each and every contractor should show due diligence by sighting the permit before they start any work – otherwise they are up for a fine as well.