Building plans and permits

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Your building plans

Plans for your new home, extension, renovation or repairs must take into account:

  • Victorian Government Building Regulations so that the work is structurally adequate and the health, safety and amenity standards for building is achieved
  • foundation data, including soil tests, to work out an appropriate foundation depth, excavation costs and an adequate footing system for the building
  • local council laws
  • mandatory energy rating requirements.

Make sure everything you want is in writing and in the plans and specifications before you sign the contract - changes can be expensive once you have signed. Changes may also require an amendment to the building permit.

It is wise to have your contract checked by a building lawyer before signing.

View our Plans and permits checklist page.

Architects, designers and draftspeople

Architects, designers and draftspeople can:

  • design and draft plans
  • get engineering computations, foundation data and planning and building permits on your behalf.

They cannot prepare drawings or specifications for building construction works unless they:

  • are architects registered with the Architects Registration Board of Victoria and they comply with professional conduct regulations, or
  • are designers/draftspeople registered with the VBA
  • have professional indemnity insurance.

An architect or designer/draftsperson should provide a written contract that outlines what you will get for your money. Their fees may be based on a lump sum or an hourly rate.

They have copyright on drawings, plans and documentation provided under your contract. This means you can only use the plans once, and only on the site they were designed for, unless agreed otherwise. 

Consider sustainability

The Building Regulations specify mandatory minimum requirements for energy efficiency. You can go beyond the minimum requirements of energy rating and include more features, materials and systems to help our environment. Some of these can save you money in the long term.

Permits for building

Before you start to build a house, or do your home extension or renovation, you or your agent must find out from the local council whether you need a planning permit. If so, you must get one before you can get a building permit. Your contract should state if your agent is your builder, architect, designer or draftsperson.

A building permit is written approval from a registered building surveyor - it is your licence to build. It shows your approved plans and specifications comply with building regulations, and allows building work to start.

A registered building surveyor, your local council or the VBA can advise whether your home renovation or extension needs a building permit.

A building permit can be obtained from a registered private or council building surveyor.

The building surveyor will charge a fee to assess your application and either:

  • grant the building permit
  • request changes to ensure the plans and specifications comply with building regulations.

If your builder, architect or draftsperson is acting on your behalf to get a building permit, you must provide written authority in your contract or a separately signed document. Read the permit application and only sign if you agree.

Your builder 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. For more details on appointing a building surveyor and their role, see our Appointing a building surveyor information.

Do not sign the building permit application as an owner builder unless you intend to take full responsibility for the project and have an owner builder’s Certificate of Consent from the VBA. For more information, view our Owner builders page. 

Who gets the plans and permits?

As the home owner, it is your obligation 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.

Big building companies usually:

  • supply plans and specifications (detailed lists of specific building materials, appliances and fittings)
  • get planning and building permits for you.

Smaller building companies can also do this.

However, you can choose to get your own plans and permits. Your building contract should make it clear who is responsible for obtaining these.

Appointing a building surveyor

Important note: From 1 September 2016, a builder who enters into a major domestic building contract, or a person who acts as a domestic builder for building work, must not appoint a private building surveyor on your behalf. Similarly, a private building surveyor cannot accept an appointment from a builder on your behalf.

A builder may recommend a private building surveyor, but you are free to appoint a private building surveyor of your choice.

You can also engage a municipal building surveyor to act as your building surveyor. For information about municipal building surveyors contact your local council. To find your local council contact details, visit the Know your council website.

For more information about appointing a building surveyor, and to search for a private building surveyor, visit the Appointing a building surveyor page on the VBA website.

The building surveyor who issues your building permit should inspect the site when specific stages of work are complete. It is the builder’s responsibility to advise the surveyor when work on each stage is complete and ready for inspection. 

You should make sure all required inspections have been carried out for each stage of building work, and that you have received a copy of the required Certificate of Final Inspection or Occupancy permit when the work is complete (this is the final step in the permit process).

A building surveyor checks that work meets minimum building regulations, but does not check that the work:

  • meets the standard agreed in your contract
  • required by your contract has been completed.

You can engage an independent building consultant to assess whether the work completed meets the requirements in your contract.