Building Permits – What are my responsibilities?

Why is it important to get a building permit?

If you are planning to construct, renovate or demolish a home, then an application for a building permit is required from your local council or from a private building surveyor.

As the home owner, it is your responsibility to make sure planning and building permits are obtained, as and work must not commence without the required building permits.

These permits are required by law and are designed to protect you. Section 16 of The Building Act 1993 (the Act) states that:

  • A person must not carry out building work 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.

Both homeowners and builders can face heavy penalties and builders can face building license suspensions if caught building without a permit. A breach of this section carries fines of up to $82,500 and $412,500 for companies so compliance is essential.

If your builder applies for your building permit

When a builder acts on your behalf to seek a building permit, you are required to:

  • Appoint a private building surveyor or instruct your builder to apply to a public building surveyor for a permit
  • Provide a written authority either in your building contract or, in a separately signed document apply for a building permit on your behalf after a private building surveyor has been appointed
  • Read thoroughly and understand the permit application prior to signing
  • Receive a copy of the building permit when it is issued

It is also the responsibility of the owner to ensure that the Certificate of Final Inspection or Occupancy Permit is obtained when work is completed as this is the final step in the permit process.

Does my building work require a permit?

Most construction work will require a permit, especially if it is structural works including excavation, demolition, restumping and framing.

Construction that may require a building permit can be as minor as replacing windows. building a chimney, and installing a pool or a spa.

It is important to note that construction must commence and be completed within a nominated time frame as building permits can lapse if builders and owners fail to adhere to the agreed upon contracted time frame.


Exemptions for requesting a building permit can be found within the Building Regulations 2018.

Exemptions include but are not limited to:

  • Repair, renewal, or maintenance of part of an existing building. However, the work must meet the specific criteria such as it will not adversely affect the structural soundness of the building
  • Alterations to a building, if the building work does not adversely affect the structural soundness of the building
  • Construction of particular Class 10a buildings, such as sheds, carports, private garages
  • Construction of pergolas, gazebos and or porches
  • Buildings that are designed for temporary use during the building work of:

(a)     construction purposes; or
(b)     display purposes

  • Fences of particular heights and uses

It is important to note that these exemptions have strict guidelines as to whether the construction qualifies to not require a building permit. These guidelines can be quite complex and expert advice is recommended.

In addition to the guidelines, there are further considerations such as Heritage Overlay that may be applicable to your construction.

Caution for owner builders

It is important as an owner not to sign a building permit application unless the following is adhered to:

  • Intention to take entire responsibility for the project
  • Hold a current owner builder’s Certificate of Consent from the Victorian Building Authority (VBA).

For advice on acting as Owner Builder, we recommend seeking expert advice.

What happens if the work is not permitted?

If construction has commenced without a building permit or outside the permit, a building surveyor can issue an order to stop the building work until the permit is obtained. For advice on when you receive a Building Notice see our blog here.

Our Services

Our team at Oldham Construction Lawyers can assist you with answering your queries when dealing with building permits in Victoria, including compliance and dealing with breaches. Our highly skilled team have the knowledge and experience to manage and assist with all aspects of building permits.

If you are unsure of your obligations and need further advice please do not hesitate to call our Director, Daniel Oldham on (03) 9640 0002, or via email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *