Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between a planning permit and a building permit?

The planning permit and building permit systems operate under different legislation – the Planning and Environment Act 1987 and the Building Act 1993 – and are two very different processes.

Generally, planning is concerned with the land - the way it will be used and/or developed, whereas building is concerned with the actual construction - its quality and its safety.

Planning permits are the approval of "what" you wish to do and "where" you want to do it. They give approval for the use and/or development of land for a specific proposal.

  • Planning permits are issued by local Councils
  • Planning permits ensure the development complies with local and State Government regulations
  • Planning permits give authorisation for a use or development on a particular piece of land.

Building permits authorise the construction or alteration of a building/s, focusing on its structural safety and amenity.

  • Building permits are issued by local Councils or a private building surveyor
  • Building permits approve and allow building projects to proceed
  • Building permits ensure the building regulations are followed
  • Building permits ensure key structural stages of the project are independently inspected.

When both a planning permit and a building permit are required for a proposal, then the planning permit must be approved and issued before the building permit can be. The building permit must be consistent with the planning permit.

When do I need a building permit?

You can read information about this in our fact sheet.(PDF, 246KB)

How long does it take for a permit to be issued?

Timelines can vary depending on whether the application provides all of the appropriate information. If a full application is received that complies with the building regulations then it will approximately take two to five working days.

How do I become an owner-builder?

Owner-builders undertaking works with a value greater than $16,000 are required to obtain an owner-builder certificate of consent from the Victorian Building Authority (VBA). Owner-builder application forms and information kits at vba.vic.gov.au.   

If I sell my property, do I have to finalise my building works?

The new owners take on all matters relating to the property and this includes any permits not finalised. The purchaser may ask for all works to have final certificates. Make sure final inspections are carried out before the permits lapse.

What inspections am I required to get?

You will be required to get inspections but this depends on the type of construction taking place. Please read your permit application form carefully. All works require a final/occupancy inspection. If in doubt, please contact us.

Do all pools require a fence?

In Victoria the design, construction and installation of swimming pools, spas and their safety barriers are subject to strict building requirements under the Building Regulations 2018

 Permanent Safety barriers are required for:

  • In ground swimming pools and spas
  • Indoor swimming pools and spas
  • Above ground pools and spas (including those with a lockable lid)
  • Inflatable and relocatable pools capable of holding more than 30cm of water
  • Hot tubs and Jacuzzis capable of holding more than 30cm of water.

Bird baths, fish ponds and fountains are not used principally for swimming, paddling or wading and do not require safety barriers.

 For more information on pools and barriers visit Victorian Building Authority or view a fact sheet on Pool Regulations here(PDF, 2MB) .

I'm having a problem with my neighbour and our boundary fence. What can Council do to help?

Unfortunately, fencing disputes are a civil matter and we are not able to help either party. You can contact the Dispute Settlement Centre on 02 9603 8370 or visit their website for more information. Under the Fences Act 1968 the property owner and the neighbour are equally responsible for any dividing fence.     

Can my neighbour build to the boundary?

Generally, yes. Your neighbour is able to build to the boundary. The maximum wall height on the boundary is 3m or an average of 3m with a maximum of 3.6m.

What is the maximum height I can build my front fence?

The maximum height you can build your front fence depends on the type of street in which you live. If your property is on a main road the maximum fence height is 2m. If your property is on a normal residential street, court, etc., the maximum height is 1.5m.

What is an energy rating?

An energy rating is an assessment of your proposed works by an accredited assessor to ascertain the energy required to heat and cool your home. At present all new homes are required to obtain a six-star rating. Additions greater than 25 per cent of the original home must also achieve a six-star rating.

What are specifications?

Specifications are a list or set of minimum standards or requirements related to your building project. These can be in the form of a simple list of materials for small jobs to extensive documents detailing everything from building materials, finishings (paint, tile and carpet details), kitchen and bathroom fixtures, and appliances for new homes and extensions. These should be discussed in detail with your builder.

Where do I get a copy of my title?

A copy of the title can usually be obtained by visiting Landata. When obtaining a copy of your title, you should also get copies of the plan of subdivision and any restrictive covenants or 173 agreements attached to the title.

What are computations?

Computations are the calculations done by a design engineer relating to large structural members incorporated in your building works, for example, large steel or timber beams, non-standard footing systems, retaining walls, etc. It is also advisable to obtain a certificate of compliance/design along with the computations and associated drawings.

What is a BPA?

Designated Bushfire Prone Areas (BPA) have been identified in the Indigo municipality. Landowners can obtain a property report by visiting land.vic.gov.au and typing in their lot number or address. If you are in a BPA, you will be required to complete a BAL assessment (Bushfire Attack Level) and there will be certain construction requirements dependent on the level of this assessment.

What is a BAL?

There are six categories of Bushfire Attack Levels (BAL) ranging from low to extreme now in place across Victoria. These levels indicate increasing construction requirements ranging from ember protection to direct flame contact. A BAL assessment is required to determine this level if you are in a mapped Bushfire Prone Area (BPA). To see if you are in a BPA area, visit land.vic.gov.au and type in your lot number or address. You can access the assessment form(PDF, 517KB).

What is a soil test?

A soil test is conducted by a geotechnical engineer and provides valuable information on soil characteristics that will determine the type of concrete slab or footings your construction will require.

Where can I site my building?

Part 5 of the Building Regulations 2018 control the siting of all residential developments up to three storeys in height within the state of Victoria.  The Regulations are intended to protect the overall neighbourhood character and the amenity of adjoining properties.  The Regulations control street and side boundary setbacks,  building heights, fence height, the extent of building of a building along a boundary, over-shadowing and overlooking into the private open space of adjoining properties.  See this fact sheet for more information.

If your development does not meet siting regulations but is not going to cause undue intrusion to the neighbours, it is possible for the Municipal Building Surveyor of Council to consider your proposal, refer it to the neighbours and approve if appropriate.  This process is called Application for Report and Consent and the application forms are below.

Variation to Building Regulations 2018 - Regulation 73(DOC, 27KB)

Variation to Building Regulations 2018 - Regulation 74(DOC, 27KB)

Variation to Building Regulations 2018 - Regulation 79(DOCX, 15KB)

Variation to Building Regulations 2018 - Regulation 84(DOC, 27KB)

Variation to Building Regulations 2018 - Regulation 87(DOCX, 16KB)

I've got a problem with my builder. Who do I talk to?

If the problem with your builder is contractual you will need to consult your solicitor. If your builder has breached the Building Regulations you can contact the relevant building surveyor who issued your permit or the Victorian Building Authority.

Can I have a shed before my house?

Planning and building legislation also have provisions relating to sheds on properties when they are not associated with dwellings. In a residential planning zone it is prohibited to have a shed without dwelling and in more rural settings Regulation 87 of the Building Regulations prohibits a shed with an appurtenant dwelling without the report and consent of the Municipal Building Surveyor. Consent may be given but would include strict provisions on the use of the building including the clause that the shed cannot be used for any form of accommodation including storage of a caravan.

Can I use my shed as a permanent dwelling?

Usually buildings like sheds won’t be approved for use as a home because they way they’re constructed may contravene residential building regulations.

If you are considering building a shed with a view to using it as a dwelling one day your first choice should be to construct the build that fully complies with Building Regulations. This could save you a lot of time and money to design footings/ frame/ living arrangements to appropriate building standards

The following information on sheds Class 10a (non- habitable) building and Dwellings, Class 1a building, may assist you in considering your options carefully.

What are the building requirements?

Most building works require a permit, including the following:-

  • Construction of a shed (Class 10a building) greater than 10m2 in area
  • Construction of a dwelling (Class 1a)
  • Change the use of an existing building from a shed to a dwelling
  • Farm Sheds

You must also be aware that there may be covenants over the land that may prohibit you from your plans.  Covenants are administered by developers to set a style for an estate and could include clauses controlling minimum size of dwellings, use of relocated or portable dwellings or materials to be used.

Planning and Building legislation also have provisions relating to sheds on properties when they are not associated with dwellings.  In a residential planning zone it is prohibited to have a shed without dwelling and in more rural settings Regulation 87 of the Building Regulations prohibits a shed with an appurtenant dwelling without the Report and Consent of the Municipal Building Surveyor.   Consent may be given but would include strict provisions on the use of the building including the clause that the shed cannot be used for any form of accommodation including storage of a caravan.

Can I retain a building used as my temporary accommodation on my site permanently?

Assuming that you have constructed the temporary accommodation with the appropriate building permission as a dwelling, you may need to obtain planning permission for dual occupancy on the land or use of the building as any form of holiday accommodation.

Building legislation issues that will affect your Change of Use application.

Council cannot issue a building and occupancy permit after a building has been constructed, except where additional works to the building are planned.

If you want to change the use of a building you can apply for building and occupancy permits.

The building surveyor will consider the buildings:

  • Structural integrity
  • Health and amenity including energy rating
  • Fire safety

 

What if I built a shed without a permit and I want to retain it as a shed or change it to a dwelling?

A building surveyor cannot legally provide a building permit for any construction after it has been built. 

Whenever Council discovers a building which would have required a permit but for which we have no record, the process is that an inspection is carried out and a Building Notice (Show Cause) or Building Order is issued.  There will be a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure the structure meets regulatory requirements including:

  • Prepare site and building plans
  • Prepare reports on energy rating, soil and structural engineering design
  • Bushfire construction requirements
  • Energy efficiency requirements
  • Slab requirements
  • Wall and roof framing
  • Damp proofing under concrete floors
  • Termite protection
  • Minimum ceiling heights.
  • Minimum Window sizes
  • Cooking, Laundry and Bathroom facilities.
  • Certificates of compliance for electrical, plumbing and glazing
  • Planning permission
  • Septic tank permission
  • Hard wired smoke alarms
  • Steps, landings and balustrades that meet code.

Given the complexity of these matters, it is strongly recommended that you consult a Building Surveyor (either Council or Private) and seek financial, building, planning and regulatory advice before making a decision.  It may not be cost effective.

Where can I site my house?

Part 5 of the Building Regulations 2018 control the siting of all residential developments up to three storeys in height within the state of Victoria.  The Regulations are intended to protect the overall neighbourhood character and the amenity of adjoining properties.  The Regulations control street and side boundary setbacks,  building heights, fence height, the extent of building of a building along a boundary, over-shadowing and overlooking into the private open space of adjoining properties.  See our fact sheet(PDF, 39KB) on siting your building for more information.

If your development does not meet siting regulations but is not going to cause undue intrusion to the neighbours, it is possible for the Municipal Building Surveyor of Council to consider your proposal, refer it to the neighbours and approve if appropriate.  This process is called 'Application for Report and Consent' and the application forms are below: