What Is A Building Permit, And Do You Need One

What Is A Building Permit, And Do You Need One?

Your home renovation must meet basic requirements for health, safety and structural soundness as set out by the Building Code of Australia. Beyond this, the permit process ensures that your plans are in line with other local government requirements, such as planning regulations and environmental or heritage requirements. Generally, approval is required for renovations that involve changes to the structure or shape of your home. This includes new additions, reconfiguring internal space by moving or removing walls, new window and door openings, or installing carp and pergolas. Electrical and plumbing approvals may also have to be obtained.

The good news is that some repairs and renovations may not require approval. Most state governments have introduced rules that allow minor internal and minor external changes without needing approval. Some examples include painting, cabinet installation, replacement of existing windows and doors (provided the opening remains the same size). In brief, work that does not entail changes to structures or systems. Talk with your builder or check with your local council or private building certifier to be sure. It is also important to find out if you need the approval to demolish an existing structure such as a garage, shed or porch, or to cut down a tree on your property.

The specific requirements depend on your local council or building certifier and the type of work you plan. For simple interior projects, a scale floor plan will often be adequate. However, a full set of working drawings and a site survey may be needed for larger projects involving additions, decks, or major structural renovations. If your plan requires a minor amendment, you may be asked to supply additional information. Again, your local council or building certifier can tell you exactly what’s needed.

Before a permit is issued, your plans and drawings are reviewed by the local authority or building certifier. After the work begins, one or more inspections will be carried out to ensure the building work complies with the approved plans. There may also be separate electrical and plumbing inspections.

When Do I Need To Get A Building Permit?

You require a permit for any renovations that will change the structure or shape of your home. This includes knocking down internal loadbearing walls, as well as adding a new window or door openings. A Building Permit is also needed for many external additions, depending on how large or imposing they are (more on this later!). Ironically, demolition work requires a permit, too. If you’re knocking down a shed, carport, garage, fence or something that’s over 40sqm in size, or made of masonry, or may affect a public space, it’s essential to contact a Building Surveyor.

Minor internal changes and smaller external alterations are exempt from building permits. So, for example, if you’re just replacing the built-in cabinets in your kitchen or bathroom, you won’t require one. The same applies to replacing doors and windows, so long as the opening stays the same size.

For many different types of home repair and improvement jobs, permits are required. Though simple repairs usually don’t require permits, additions, or major changes—particularly those involving structural work, electrical, heating, and plumbing—usually demand that you get the appropriate permits from the local building department. If you’re working with a contractor or subcontractor, this professional usually handle the permit process.

If your job falls within this category and your tradesperson suggests that you don’t need a permit, be wary and check with the building department yourself. In most cases, getting a permit means the necessary officials will inspect the work. As a homeowner, this is good for you. Another set of knowledgeable eyes will scrutinize your contractor’s work. The project results must adhere to building codes, which set minimum safety standards for both materials and construction techniques.

Building codes ensure that your home will be safe for your family and any future families who live there. However, suppose work is done without a permit and discovered later. In that case, building officials may require that you bring the work up to permit standard—or even dismantle and redo the work—before they will give it a completion or occupancy approval. For most permits, you must pay fees, typically based on the value of the project. So don’t overestimate the value of the work because it will cost you more in permit fees.

A permit ensures oversight of your contractor’s work (or yours). The scrutiny of an inspector can guard against mistakes and shoddy workmanship and ensure that the work adheres to building codes. As a result, you’ll sleep better knowing your project meets safety standards for materials and construction techniques.

A permit will also help you avoid headaches in the future. For example, suppose building officials discover you have done work without a permit. In that case, you could be legally obligated to disclose that you have remodelled without a permit, and the buyer could demand that you bring work up to code.

What Happens if You Get Caught Without a Building Permit

Consequences of commencing construction work without a Building Permit

The consequences of performing construction work without a building permit can result in a penalty fine of more than $75,000, or more depending on various factors of the structure and location itself. 

It is illegal to carry out work on a building or structure without a permit, whereby doing so without first obtaining a permit will find you guilty of defying the law speculated in the Building Act 1993 and Building Regulations 2006, strictly prohibiting individuals from performing construction work without a building permit. 

Why Is A Building Permit Required?

Building Permits are required for multiple reasons, all of which mainly pertain to ensuring the safety of those constructing the structure and those that will be using it and around it. Through enforcing specific construction standards, obtaining a Building Permit provides occupants with the best chance of avoiding high-risk situations from improperly wired, constructed or plumbed buildings.

Building Permits are put in place to ensure that buildings comply with the Building Code of Australia, The Building Act 1993 and Building Regulations 2018. A building permit is an official document that certifies that a relevant Building Surveyor has approved plans and documentation before a project begins.

Cost Of A Building Permit

For small construction projects, the cost of a building permit is typically between $500 and $1,000 and up to $2,000 for dwellings. It’s important to note that the cost of a building permit is determined by the size and scope of the building works.

Prices can also vary depending on location, renovations, additions, and high-risk projects such as electrical. Permits for all building projects are required for state and local authorities to ensure that the safety guidelines comply with building codes.

What’s the difference between planning and building permits?

Whether you’re considering building a new home, an extension or perhaps a small property development, before you start the process, you need to understand about permits. Sure it’s not the sexiest topic in the world, but it can make the difference between a successful project and one doomed by red tape from the start.

What’s a planning permit?

Planning permits are legal documents that provide permission for 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.

Also, it’s important to realize that a planning permit doesn’t remove the need to obtain a building permit. Well, you’ll need to check with your local council’s town planning office to find out because councils can have differing requirements.

What’s A Building Permit?

Hopefully, now you understand that a planning permit must be issued before a building permit can be.

So, if a planning permit is all about what’s permissible on the site, how is that different to a building permit? Well, building permits relate specifically to the carrying out of building construction or alteration and its structural safety and amenity. Breaking into some legal jargon now, a building permit process ensures that any construction or alteration of a structure or building complies with relevant legislation. A building permit can be issued by either a municipal building surveyor through a council or a registered private building surveyor and approve projects to proceed. Another key function of a building permit is to ensure that building regulations are followed and that key structural stages of the project are independently inspected.

It’s important to understand that any building permit must be consistent with the requirements of the planning permit, including conditions and endorsed plans if required. Not all building works require permits, so it’s vital to check with the relevant authority.

How Long Is a Building Permit Valid

Building permits are documents issued by a local building inspection office, issued to authorize a builder, remodeler, or DIYer to perform certain home repairs, improvements, or building projects where oversight is viewed as necessary by local authorities. Building permits are issued for any project where review by an authorized inspector is deemed necessary. The inspector will review the work, sometimes more than once, to ensure the work is done safely and according to code specifications. However, requirements vary quite a bit from state to state and even between communities within the same state. In some communities, many repairs can be made with no requirement for permit or inspection. In contrast, other communities are quite conservative and will require permits and inspections for many, if not most, major repairs and improvements. 

Typically, permits are required for any type of work where safety is of particular concern. Wiring, plumbing, and structural work almost always require a permit, while cosmetic work such as painting, replacing flooring, or swapping out existing fixtures usually does not. In some communities, a distinction is made between work considered a repair and work regarded as an improvement. Repair or replacement projects may be allowed without a permit, while those thought to improve a home or add real estate value usually require permits.

If you are unsure, ALWAYS call your local home inspection office to determine the requirements for permit and inspection for the project you’re considering. Trying to bypass this step can only lead to difficulty in the long run. When selling a home, it’s not uncommon for projects that were completed without required permits to be flagged, and it can be very difficult and expensive to get the work approved after the fact. In some communities, there may be fines or increased fees associated with after-the-fact inspection and approval.

Once the permit is issued, different jurisdictions will have different time requirements, but it is a common rule-of-thumb that a building permit will expire if the work it covers does not begin within six months or is not completed within one year of the date it is issued. You should be able to renew or extend an expired permit, but it is usually a good policy to get your permit issued as close as possible to the time the work will begin.

When you hire a contractor, either a general contractor who is managing all phases of a project or individual contractors to do specific tasks, he or she should handle applying for permits and arranging for inspections. The permit fees are usually part of the contractor’s bid. But it is wise to discuss this with your contractor and be clear about the permit applications and fees responsibilities. If you are a DIYer, it is incumbent on you to know what permits are required, follow code requirements, and see to it that inspections are completed in the allowed time frame.

Benefits of working with a building permit Share

There are many important reasons to obtain the required building permits and inspections for your building project.

Make sure it’s safe.

When you get a building permit, you get assurance that the construction will produce a safe environment for yourself and your family and/or your business clients. In addition, by following code guidelines, your completed project will meet minimum safety standards and will be less likely to cause injury, health or environmental issues.

Protect your property value

Your home or business is one of the biggest investments you will ever make. Should you decide to sell your home, work done without a permit will reduce your home’s value. However, when you build to the building code, the value of your investment is protected into the future.

Save money

Working with a permit saves you money in the long run. Construction started without a building permit will result in a doubling of the building permit fee. You may even have to dismantle work already completed and reconstruct it to code, adding considerable time and cost to your project. Nobody wants that.

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