Who is an Owner Builder?

An Owner-Builder assumes the responsibilities, risks and liabilities of a builder. The level of those responsibilities, risks and liabilities depends on the extent of the building work undertaken by the owner. Genuine owner-builders will live or intend to live in their home once completed. Do not make the decision to be an owner-builder lightly. Unless you are confident that you have the knowledge to undertake a project like this, you should seriously reconsider if becoming an owner-builder is the right choice for you.

When is a certificate of consent required?

If you intend to apply for a building permit to carry out domestic building work that costs more than $12,000, you must provide a Certificate of Consent from the Victorian Building Authority as part of your building permit application. You will also need to obtain subsequent certificates of consent for any additional building work (costing over $12,000) on the same property. It is a serious offence if you commence building work without the correct permits in place, and you may be compelled to demolish illegal buildings. Never rely on informational advice on planning or building permits.

Why do you need building compliance certification?

By law, you building is required to have annual compliance certification, and failure to obtain this means that you may incur fines from local Councils and risk insurance cover. Compliance gives you the knowledge that your tenants will be able to exit a building safely in case of fire.

How do you achieve compliance certification?

Measures are either inspected quarterly or annually and focus on the following areas of your building:

Passive Fire covers the construction in relation to fire resistance. It indicated fire resistance. It includes the items, exit doors, smoke doors, fire doors, paths to travel to exits, fire resisting shafts, fire resisting structures, fire indices, fire protected coverings, fire rated access panel, lightweight construction, penetration fire-related structures, discharge from exits to public road, fire isolated passageways and stairs, fire indices and passageways. We also monitor the fire equipment, emergency lighting and mechanical services to ensure that all items applicable to your building are maintained to the correct Australian standard by the contractor. Anderson Group makes the process easy for you by managing the reports, providing certification and helping you to sustain long-term compliance. If you also require maintenance of fire equipment, emergency lighting and mechanical ventilation, Anderson Group will coordinate these contractors.

What types of building are affected?

All buildings other than a house or outbuilding are affected. These include the following classes as defined in the Building Code of Australia.

Class 1B: Some boarding houses, guesthouses or hostels.

Class 2: Buildings containing sole-occupancy unit (e.g. apartments, blocks of flats).

Class 3: Backpacker accommodation, residential parts of hotels or motels, residential parts of schools accommodation for the aged, physically challenged or children.

Class 5: Offices for professional and commercial purposes.

Class 6: Shops or other buildings for the sale of goods by retail cafes, restaurants, milk bars, dining rooms and bars.

Class 7: Buildings used for car parks, storage or warehouses.

Class 8: Laboratories and factories.

Class 9: Public buildings such as healthcare buildings or assembly buildings, nightclubs, bars, etc.

What happens if an owner doesn’t comply?

The municipal building surveyor or chief officer of the relevant fire brigade is responsible for the enforcement of these Regulations. Non-compliance may result in an infringement notice issued to the Fire Brigade up to $1,000, and furthermore, non-compliance may result in prosecution in which a fine may be imposed of $10,000 for an individual, or $50,000 for companies for each breech of regulations. More importantly, non-compliance could place not only building occupants at risk but also those of passer-by and the occupants of adjoining buildings. Adequate maintenance is the best means of ensuring that fire safety systems will operate reliably if an emergency arises.

I just received a Building Notice from Council. What should I do now?

If you have received a Building Notice, Order or Minor Works Order from Council, you will first notice that you have 30 days to respond. Don’t leave it to the last minute. If you are proactive, you will avoid the stress and high costs involved. Contact us today so that we can understand Council’s concerns and explain what you can expect from the process.

The notice mentions demolition. Does that mean I need to demolish my work?

Not necessarily. A building notice must ask you to show cause as to the why the building should be done, in this case, demolish a building that was built without a building permit. If you can provide documentary evidence that demonstrates compliance with the building regulations, you can satisfy council requirements, and they may remove the building notice or order. That’s where we come in. We have developed a comprehensive inspection and report process to provide the certification of the existing structure and assist in allowing Council to cease enforcement action. In some cases, rectification work may be necessary, and we will advise if you need a building permit to carry these out before proceeding. The need for demolition of the entire structure is very rare.

I obtained advice that I didn’t need a building permit for the works, why has a notice been served?

Unless you received advice about the need for a permit from a registered building practitioner, preferably a building surveyor, it is likely you have been misinformed. Building surveyors are well versed in the requirements of the Building Act and Regulations and can provide knowledgeable advice on your proposed project.

Even something as simple as increasing the size of an internal doorway can trigger the need for a building permit as it has structural implications for the building. As the owner of the property, your are responsible for ensuring that the building work that you do has the necessary permits and approvals before works commencing. While you may have done the right thing by asking the question in the first place, you are still responsible for your property. If in doubt, ask a registered building surveyor, or contact your local council.

I recently purchased the property and was not responsible for the works in the building notice. Do I still have to comply?

Yes. Unfortunately, as the new owner of the property, you will inherit any non-compliance from previous owners and are fully responsible for any illegal building works on the property. At this point, you may wish to seek legal advice as to your rights to seek compensation from the previous owner. However, time is critical as you are limited to regulatory time restrictions to respond and act upon the building notice or order.