- Do your building plans, then check if you need planning and building permits before work starts
- As the home owner, it is your responsibility to ensure permits are obtained
- Choose your own independent building surveyor
- Use registered architects, designers and draftspeople
- Make sure your building contract clearly states who is responsible for doing your building plans and who will obtain permits
First, do your plans
We recommend you get your building plans prepared by a registered architect, designer or draftsperson.
They must take into account:
- foundation data and the results of any soil tests
- local council laws and regulations. Each local council has its own planning and building requirements, which must be met before they will issue a permit. You will need to contact your local council to find out what applies to your project. To find your local council contact details, visit the Know your council website.
- mandatory energy efficiency requirements
- results from a site survey by a licensed land surveyor, if there are any concerns about the boundaries of the property.
If your plans do not take these things into account you risk paying for plans you cannot use.
Before you sign the building contract, make sure your building plans and specifications detail all the features, fixtures, fittings and finishes you want.
Make sure your building contract clearly states who is responsible for doing your building plans and who will obtain your permits (for example, your builder, architect or you).
Check if you need a planning and building permit
As the home owner, it is your responsibility to make sure planning and building permits are obtained, whether you get them yourself or get someone else (such as your builder) to do it for you.
You must not start work without a building permit.
Note: When your builder acts on your behalf to get a building permit, you must first appoint a private building surveyor or instruct your builder to apply to a municipal building surveyor for a permit.
It is also your responsibility to make sure that the Certificate of Final Inspection or Occupancy Permit is obtained when work is complete (this is the final step in the permit process).
You will need to contact your local council to find out what local planning laws and regulations apply to your project. To find your local council contact details, visit the Know your council website.
Also, check with your local council if there are any additional council requirements for your area. For example, termite or fire protection requirements, or a development levy.
A registered building surveyor can advise whether you need a building permit
(a written approval from a registered building surveyor that shows your plans comply with building regulations).
You must not start work without a building permit.
The building surveyor will assess your application (for a fee) and either:
- request changes to ensure the plans and specifications comply with building regulations
- grant the building permit, allowing building work to start.
Ensure that you only engage one building surveyor. You may choose either a private building surveyor or a municipal building surveyor. Your builder may recommend a building surveyor, but cannot appoint a private building surveyor for you.
- You or your architect, designer or draftsperson can apply to the local council for the planning permit
- You can obtain a building permit from a registered private or council building surveyor, or
- Your builder can apply for the planning and building permits on your behalf, but cannot appoint a private building surveyor on your behalf. If you want your builder to apply for the building permit on your behalf you must first appoint a private building surveyor or instruct your builder to apply to a municipal building surveyor for a permit..
If your builder applies for your building permit
When your builder acts on your behalf to get a building permit, you:
- must first appoint a private building surveyor or instruct your builder to apply to a municipal building surveyor for a permit
- must provide them with written authority either in your building contract or in a separately signed document to apply for a building permit on your behalf after you have appointed the private building surveyor
- should read and understand the permit application before it is signed
- should receive a copy of the building permit when it is issued.
You can ask your builder for a copy of the permit and the permit application.
Caution for owner builders
Do not sign the building permit application as an owner builder unless you:
- intend to take full responsibility for the project
- have an owner builder’s Certificate of Consent from the Victorian Building Authority (VBA).
Working with architects, designers and draftspeople
Architects, designers and draftspeople can:
- design and draft building plans
- obtain engineering and foundation data (with your written authority)
- obtain any required planning and building permits (with your written authority).
Drawings and specifications for building works can be prepared by:
- architects registered with the Architects Registration Board of Victoria, who have professional indemnity insurance
- designers and draftspeople registered with the VBA
- owner builders. View our Owner builder checklist page.
The architect, designer or draftsperson:
- should provide a written contract that specifies what you will get for your money
- may charge a lump sum or an hourly rate as agreed in the contract
- may have copyright on any drawings, plans and documentation prepared under your contract. Make sure you understand who has copyright, and when and how you can use the plans.
Working with building surveyors
The building surveyor who issues your building permit is responsible for:
- conducting inspections of the site, and of building works at specific stages of completion
- checking that work meets the minimum standards of building regulations.
You may wish to engage an independent building consultant to check that the work meets the standards agreed in your contract (over and above the minimum standards of the building regulations).