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When is a building permit required?
Why are building permits issued?
Are there exemptions?
How do I apply for a building permit?
What is the process?
Information to be lodged for building permits
Standard of plans for building permit applications
Did you know that your building permit has time limits?

Lapsed Permits
What happens if my building permit lapses?
When are occupancy permits required?
What is the process?
How does an occupancy permit relate to the building contract?
What if there is still ongoing building work?

Building permits relate specifically to the construction of a building. 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 are a requirement of the local council Planning Scheme rather than the Building Act.
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.
Time taken to process your application is largely dependent on the nature, scale and complexity of the individual application.
Most applications involve some form of referral to other expert parties and others will require the advertising of the application to nearby landowners/occupiers. The referral and advertising processes add time to the overall assessment time.
Processing time for applications can vary from as little as three weeks to as long as six months.
The registered building surveyor must not issue a building permit if a town planning permit is required, and they have not been provided with a copy of the town planning permit and stamped approved plans.
Check all covenants, and planning zones and overlays. The best way to find out whether you need a planning permit is to contact the council’s Town Planning Office. It is advisable that where an applicant has already checked whether a town planning permit is required and has been advised that one is not required, that they obtain evidence in writing to present to the Registered Building Surveyor.

Building permits signify that a building surveyor has approved the documentation relating to proposed building work prior to commencement. They are a system of control on the construction of building work. The permit will specify when an occupancy permit is required or when a certificate of final inspection is necessary on completion of the work

When is a building permit required?
The Building Act 1993 (the Act) and Building Regulations 2006 (the Regulations) legislate that most building work is subject to the issuing of a building permit. This includes most alterations, demolitions and removals. 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.
The Building Regulations recognise that some building work is of a minor nature and the protection and advantages that a building permit provides may not be necessary. In certain cases, the regulations exempt owners from obtaining building permits for certain works. See the table and notes below.



Building Permit Required?

Must comply with notes

• Freestanding having a floor area not exceeding 10m2 , a height of not more than 3.0m, is not constructed of masonry and located no further forward than the front wall of the dwelling



• Attached to another building and costing less than $5,000



• Setback less than the minimum required by Part 4 of the Building (Interim) Regulations 2005 or extends beyond the street alignment


4 & 5

• Constructed over an easement


4 & 5




• Erection of a free standing shed less than 10m2 in area, no more than 3m in height, not constructed of masonry and not further forward of the front wall of the house.



• Erection of a free standing shed less than 10m² in area and built over an easement.



• Erection of a free standing shed more than 10m2 in area



• Erection of a free standing shed more than 10m2 in area and built over an easement.


4 & 5




• Construction of a verandah attached to any building




  1. Building Code of Australia (includes structural safety, fire rating, and health and amenity requirements as applicable).
  2. Building (Interim) Regulations 2005 – Part 4, (includes siting requirements, wall height restrictions, setbacks etc. as applicable).
  3. Cannot be built on vacant allotment without Council consent – reg. 422 (permit)
  4. Must comply with all provisions of the Act and Regulations including those above. This is determined by the process of issuing a building permit.
  5. Required reporting Authority or other relevant consent which is obtained as part of a building permit.
  6. The Municipal Building Surveyor may require a building permit if the stability of the ground may be affected by any excavation or filling on the allotment – reg 606.
  7. The consent of a service authority may be required to construct a classa 10a building 10m2 or less in area over an easement vested in that authority under another Act.

****  A planning permit or approval may be required regardless of whether a building permit is required.


“building work”   – means work for or in connection with the construction, demolition or removal of a building.
“construct”      – in relation to a building, includes:
a) build, re-build, erect or re-erect the building; and
b) repair the building; and
c) make alterations to the building; and
d) enlarge or extend the building; and
e) place or relocate the building on land.
“fence”              – includes a screen or a structure similar to a fence.
“pergola”          – means an open structure that is unroofed but may have a covering of open weave permeable material.


Why are building permits issued?
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 $10,000 for anyone carrying out work without a permit.
However, compliance should not be the key motivator for people when they are arranging a building permit.
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 using them.
Why obtain a building permit?
A building permit ensures:
• The required building practitioners are registered and carry insurance
• Adequate documentation is prepared to enable proper and complying 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 the certainty of compliance with building legislation prior to building work commencing. This can ease the preparation of compliance reports, which may be required when selling your property.

Are there exemptions?
The Regulations provide exemptions from the requirement to obtain a building permit for some minor structures Examples of exemptions include some 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. Seek advice from your council for more information.

How do I apply for a building permit?
An application for a building permit may be made to a municipal or private building surveyor. To find a building surveyor, search on the Building Commission website at under “Finding an RBP”.
Some municipal building surveyors issue permits outside their municipal district, whereas a private building surveyor can issue a permit in any municipality.
Applying for a permit is easy. Simply:
• Check the experience of the building surveyor as well as their fee for issuing the permit and carrying out the inspections
• Apply for the building permit through your municipal or private building surveyor, once you have made a decision about which one to use
• Pay the appropriate fee and submit at least three copies of drawings, specifications and allotment plans with the completed application form.

What is the process?
Once you have lodged your application with a building surveyor, they will check for compliance with the Regulations and can issue a permit with or without conditions. In some instances, they may refuse to issue a permit. If a permit is refused, you can either change the design to comply with the Regulations or appeal to the Building Appeals Board.
The permit issued may be the permit for the whole of the proposed building work or for a stage of the proposed building work. The building surveyor cannot issue the building permit until any required consent of a reporting authority is received. The consent could be in relation to such matters as building over an easement or siting of a carport. It is also a requirement that a building permit cannot be issued until a relevant planning permit (if required) is obtained.
The building surveyor who issues the permit must follow the project through to the end, carrying out building inspections and issue an occupancy permit or a certificate of final inspection on completion of your building work.
The building surveyor must state on the building permit which mandatory inspections will be required. Nothing prevents the building surveyor from varying the above inspections or carrying out additional inspections.
If you intend to carry out work close to a neighbour’s property the building surveyor can, in some cases, require you to perform work to protect your neighbour’s property and obtain appropriate insurance cover for the building work prior to beginning the work.

Information to be lodged for building permits
Supporting Documentation
Application form for Building Permit to be completed and signed showing all building practitioners and relevant registration numbers, if applicable.

  1. Copy of Title and Titles Office approved Plan of Subdivision.

For any enquiries re copy of title, contact
Land Titles Office, 570 Bourke Street, Melbourne.
Phone: 9603 5555 –or website:

  1. Covenant details and developers consent where appropriate.
  2. Evidence of ownership as indicated on Title, Contract of Sale or Solicitors letter.
  3. Where the project cost exceeds $12,000 and the works are to be carried out as an owner builder a certificate of consent from the Building Practitioners Board is required (For further information you can contact the Building Practitioners Board on 9285 6400)
  4. Copy of town planning permit and endorsed plans where applicable.
  5. Three copies of complete sets of plans drawn to scale, specifications and structural engineering design/computations, when applicable.
  6. If the proposed works are to be located over an easement, evidence of consent from relevant water supply authority and relevant Council Department.
  7. Fees to be paid with application;
    a) A State Government Levy of $1.28 per thousand dollars of the value is applicable for works in excess of $10,000.00.
    b) A
    HIH Building levy of 32 cents per thousand dollars of the value is applicable for works in excess of $10,000.
  8. If proposed structure is to be attached to the existing dwelling provide a floor plan showing the position of any proposed or existing smoke alarms in the dwelling.

Plans & Specifications
Plans must include :

  1. Siting of proposed building works.
    a) A site plan to an approved scale of not less than 1:500, showing the location of all existing buildings on the allotment, together with any dimensions and details that are necessary to show compliance.
    b) A copy of drawings floor plan & elevations.
  2. Construction details.
    a) A copy of specifications describing materials and methods to be used in the construction.
    b) A copy of any computations or reports necessary to demonstrate that the building would, if constructed in accordance with the computations and reports, comply with the building regulations.
  3. Method of drainage.
  4. Location of neighbours habitable room windows, and overlooking diagrams.
  5. Overshadowing diagrams.
  6. Car parking facilities.
  7. Permeability details.

The above document list is a basic guide only and in some cases additional information may be required.

Standard of plans for building permit applications
The process of applying for a building permit requires (apart from other information) the submission of clear and precise working drawings for the proposal.
The working drawings consisting of various views and details must be complete and neatly set out with notes and descriptions that are clearly legible. Any person should be able to read and completely build the proposal from those plans without question.
Owners with inadequate building knowledge or drawing skills and thinking of preparing their own plans may find it a frustrating experience if such plans are rejected, or require alteration and additional information. It is also a frustrating and time wasting experience for a building surveyor to check those plans that are below standard.
Council advise that working drawings and documentation necessary for a building permit, should be prepared by a registered building practitioner in the category of draftperson. Drawings must include a site plan to a scale of not less than 1:500 showing:

  • the lengths and compass bearings of all allotment boundaries to match the approved
  • plan of subdivision or sketch as shown on the Land Title,
  • all existing and proposed conditions on site, a north arrow, easements and the
  • distance to the nearest intersecting street,
  • the position and dimensions of the proposed building/s and its relationship to the boundaries and to any existing building on the allotment and to any part of a building on an adjoining allotment where necessary to show compliance with the regulations,
  • a statement of the use or intended use of all buildings,
  • levels of site and floors, levels of street drainage channel and stormwater drain,
  • layout of drains to the point of discharge and details to show compliance with the regulations.

Generally working drawings will comprise:

  • the plan of the proposal at each floor level (including existing conditions),
  • elevations, sections, dimensions,
  • the sizes and locations of structural members to a scale of not less than 1:100,
  • together with any details that are necessary to show compliance to a scale of not less than 1:20.

Specification documents, which support the drawings, should also be prepared describing materials and methods to be used in the construction.

Council reserves the right to refuse acceptance of drawings and specifications in connection with a building permit application, which do not meet the above criteria.

Did you know that your building permit has time limits?
Building work relating to houses and outbuildings must commence within 12 months and be completed within 24 months of the date of issue of the building permit.
• Building work relating to swimming pools and associated barriers or fences must commence within 12 months of the date of the issue of the building permit and be completed within 6 months of commencement of the work.
• Building work relating to the re-erection of houses and out buildings must commence within six months and be completed within 12 months of the date of the issue of the building permit.
• All other building work, must commence within 12 months and be completed within 36 months of the date of issue of the building permit. An exception is the re-erection of a building which must be completed within 12 months of the date of the issue of the building permit.
Note: A building permit period may be extended, if it is warranted, by application to the building surveyor before the permit lapses.

Lapsed Permits
Under ordinary circumstances, the building work will be commenced and completed before the expiry of these time periods. If for some reason, circumstances prevent the commencement or completion of the building work by the nominated date, you must do one of the following:
• Before the relevant date passes, seek an extension to the time in which building must be commenced and/or completed from the relevant municipal or private building surveyor who issued the permit: The 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 to the Building Appeals Board
• Apply for a determination from the Building Appeals Board to modify regulation 316(1)(b) of the Building (Interim) Regulations 2005 to extend the time limits of the building permit.

What happens if my building permit lapses?
If a building permit lapses but building work continues, that building work may have been required to be inspected at one of the mandatory inspection stages. It is difficult to authenticate the compliance of building work after it has been completed. The building surveyor who originally issues the building permit may refuse to approve the work or may require a part of the building to be exposed to be satisfied that the work is appropriate before issuing an occupancy permit.
If a building permit lapses and building work is not complete, a new building permit will be required to be issued to enable completion of the unfinished building work. This would require a new application for the issue of a building permit for the unfinished building work. The relevant municipal or private building surveyor will require plans that show the work to be completed and payment of fees and levies relative to that work will need to be paid. The application must be made to the same building surveyor who issued the original building permit unless a termination of his or her appointment has been obtained. What are occupancy permits?


In some circumstances, only the local council will be able to approve a building project that is not in accordance with the regulations. In these cases you will need to seek a dispensation, known as a ‘consent and report’, from your local council. The need for a dispensation may occur in the following circumstances:
■ Building over an easement (sewer, storm water, gas, electricity)
■ Building on flood prone land
■ Building to the front boundary than your neighbours have done
■ Erecting a garage on a vacant block.
Since easements are a restriction on title, there is no guarantee that a build over, on or near an easement will be approved. A building permit cannot be issued until these permits have been obtained.

Inspections are an integral part of the permit process. The building surveyor will inspect your property:
■ Prior to the placement of footings
■ Other times deemed necessary by your building surveyor, and
■ When your building project is complete and stormwater is connected to the legal point of discharge.

Your builder will ring the building surveyor to arrange these inspections. It is vital that you ensure that your builder arranges for these inspections to occur. If they have not taken place, you may not be authorised to occupy your building once the work is completed. Sometimes your building surveyor will issue instructions to your builder as a result of one of these inspections. Any direction from your building surveyor will be put in writing and your builder must follow that advice. Sometimes a bank will require evidence from a building surveyor about building progress in order to release further payments, in which case you should request a written report following each inspection. If you are an owner-builder, you will need to contact the building surveyor and organise these inspections yourself.


Occupancy permits are documents that signify that a building surveyor is satisfied and has approved your building as being suitable for occupation. The Building Act 1993 requires the issue of an Occupancy Permit prior to occupation of a building. It is an offence to occupy a new building, including a home or apartment without an occupancy permit.

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.
• 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.
• A certificate of final inspection is issued for extensions or alterations to existing homes, which do not require an occupancy permit. Again, this will be indicated on the building permit.

What is the process?
Occupancy permits are issued when your building is considered suitable for occupation. An application for an Occupancy permit is made to the building surveyor who issued the building permit. In deciding whether to issue an occupancy permit, the building surveyor may request certificates or statements from various practitioners involved in the construction of the building to confirm that the work complies with relevant building legislation.

How does an occupancy permit relate to the building contract?
Where the value of your building work is more than $5,000 and is being carried out by a builder, the builder must be registered and must carry out the work under a major domestic building contract.
With respect to occupancy permits, section 42 of the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 sets out the conditions to be met before a builder can request a final payment from you. The final payment cannot be claimed until the work carried out under the contract has been completed in accordance with the plans and specifications set out in the contract and the building owner has been given either a copy of the occupancy permit or a copy of the certificate of final inspection. You should read the contract and if you don’t understand it, seek legal advice.
In the case of apartments that are bought off the plan, occupation may still not be possible even if an occupancy permit has been issued for an individual unit. This may be due to contractual arrangements such as completion of the contract and settlement.
You should obtain legal advice to ensure you understand when settlement will occur and whether it is tied to the issuing of an occupancy permit (or the final inspection or some other factor).

What if there is still ongoing building work?
An occupancy permit will only be issued to you when items affecting health and safety are in place and fully operational. These include things such as the water supply, smoke alarms, safety glass, handrails and balustrades. It does not mean that all the painting is done, that the carpet is laid or that all the fittings are installed, for example.
For a high-rise apartment, in addition to it being suitable to occupy, an occupancy permit means that the common areas have been made safe and useable, but they may not necessarily have been completed.
The relationship between the occupancy permit and your contract of sale (or domestic building contract) should be clear to you before entering into the relevant contract. If you have any doubts or do not understand the relationship you should obtain legal advice.
Regardless of whether an occupancy permit has been issued, a builder is still responsible for the construction of a building in accordance with the relevant contract and/or approved building permit documents that form part of that contract. It is advisable that you clearly understand your obligations and conditions of contract prior to signing.
For more information regarding contracts made under the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995, please contact Consumer Affairs Victoria on 1300 558 181.


Many Victorians want to carry out their own renovations or construct their own project in order to use their own skills and/or save money. An owner builder must accept the same responsibilities, risks and liabilities as a professional builder. This might include responsibility for insurance, occupational health and safety of workers on the site, arranging permits and inspections, making sure tradesmen have appropriate registration and insurance and ensuring compliance with all legislation.
For any project where the cost of work exceeds $12,000, domestic building insurance will be required. Domestic building insurance covers structural defects for 6 years and non structural defects for 2 years. Where an owner-builder is sub-contracting and the cost of individual trades work exceeds $12,000, domestic building insurance will be required by each of the tradesmen. In some cases, it will be necessary to ensure that sub-contractors are Registered Building Practitioners and to draw up a major domestic building contract with them.
New legislation has been passed by the Victorian Parliament to reform the law relating to owner builders and will come into effect from 1 July 2005.
The new law requires a prospective owner-builder to first obtain a certificate of consent from the Building Practitioners Board if the building project is worth more than $12,000. A building permit will only be issued once the owner-builder has this certificate of consent. If you are considering becoming an owner-builder, even if just for a renovation, it is a good idea to talk to a building surveyor first so that you understand all the legal requirements. There are also courses available on how to minimise risk as an owner-builder.





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