When Is A Building Approval Not Needed?

renovation

If you are planning on installing a new fence on your property or repairing some areas of the house, you might be asking yourself whether you really need a building approval for a minor construction project. It’s a valid question. Not all types of construction or renovation projects require a building approval or permit. Queensland and New South Wales have regulations that identify which construction or renovation projects do and do not require a building approval.

What is a Building Permit or Approval?

A building permit or approval is issued by your local council or a private building certifier to homeowners and property developers after proper inspection of building plans and construction sites. It indicates that the project meets the regulations defined by the Building Code of Australia. Building approvals are given to ensure the safety and structural stability of a building.

View the process of obtaining a building approval in Queensland here.

The Rules in Queensland

Accepted Development

Some minor building works in Queensland like home repairs and renovations do not require a building approval. These are called ‘accepted development’ and are set out in the Planning Act 2016. Some examples of accepted developments include:

  • Small tool sheds, stables and similar structures up to 10 square metres
  • Fences with a maximum height of two metres and below (excluding swimming pool fencing which must comply with your state’s regulations)
  • Retaining walls with a height of one metre
  • Non-load bearing devices such as aerials, antennas, satellite dishes (with a max diameter of 900mm) and flagpoles;
    • if attached to a building or structure, the device can be no more than 3.5m above
    • if detached from a building or structure, the device can be no more than 10m above the natural ground surface.
  • Certain kinds of excavation or filling – no deeper than 1 m above or below natural ground surface, only into specific soil types and minor slopes.

Note that, although these minor building works do not require building approval, the owner must make sure that they still comply with any applicable building standards. Some of these standards include size limits, structural sufficiency, property boundary setbacks as well as the City Plan (Queensland Development Code).

For a full list of accepted development found in the Building Regulation 2021 Schedule 1, visit Queensland Legislation website.

In order to comply with Queensland’s City Plan, owners must make formal enquiries with the City Council prior to any construction or renovation. Some building works that are required to comply include:

  1. Fixing of minor attachments to a building like a sun hood with the area of less than two square metres
  2. Construction of playground equipment up to three metres high from their natural ground level.

Other building works and renovations at home that do not require a building approval include the repair or replacement of the following:

  • Fixtures and lining of walls or ceiling
  • Kitchen cupboards
  • Vanity units or floor coverings

However, home owners still need to make sure that all materials that are to be used for these building projects adhere to relevant Australian Standards. Lining must also be fixed according to the installation instructions from the manufacturer.

Generally, building work, maintenance and alterations to an existing building are permitted without council approval so long as they don’t alter the building’s floor area or height, do not affect a structural component of the building or structure (other than a structural component mentioned in Section 8 of the Act), or affect the fire safety system of the building.

When it comes to considerable home renovations and extensions, or the addition of structural components such as larger sheds and verandahs, its worthwhile getting a professional opinion from a private certifier to avoid any headaches (and potential fines) down the track.

What does require a building approval?

Below we have included a few examples of the types of building works that do require planning approval and building permits:

  • Extensions or modifications to the existing building
  • The installation of swimming pools and spas (plus fencing)
  • Shade sails, roofed patios, pergolas and carports
  • Retaining walls greater than 1m in height
  • Sheds over 2m high and over 10m square
  • Demolition or removal of a structure

Swimming Pool Fences

As mentioned above, pool fencing is heavily regulated with strict safety standards in place across Australia. The rules vary slightly state to state however ultimately it is up to property owners to ensure pool fencing meets regulations and to obtain a valid pool safety certificate.

iCertified provide pool safety inspections across the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Sunshine Coast and are able to supply your pool safety certificate once it’s determined that your pool fence is meeting the necessary requirements. View our Queensland pool fence safety checklist here.

Council Resources

Learn more about the guidelines relating to each individual council in our service area below:

The Rules in New South Wales

Exempt Development

In New South Wales, there are also some minor building projects and developments that may not require a building permit or approval, as long as they comply with the applicable standards. These are classed as “Exempt Development”. These include the construction and installation of the following:

  1. Access ramp, animal shelter, and aviary
  2. Aerial, antenna or a satellite communications dish (including any supporting mast) as long as the construction or installation does not comprise fire alarm communication works within the scope of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000.
  3. Air-conditioning units and ATMs
  4. Roof-mounted evaporative cooling unit
  5. Awning, canopy, or blind over a window or door opening
  6. Balcony, deck, patio, pergola, terrace or verandah
  7. Barbecue or other outdoor cooking structure
  8. Carport, pathway or paving, a bollard, a garbage bin storage enclosure
  9. Cabana, cubby house, fernery, garden shed, gazebo or greenhouse
  10. Charity or recycling bin
  11. Clothes hoist or clothesline
  12. Reverse vending machine, mobile reverse vending machine, or a container collection cage
  13. Driveway and a hard stand space
  14. Walls or other forms of structural support
  15. Farm building, a fowl, or poultry house
  16. A fence on land, or in a business and industrial zone
  17. Free-standing flagpole
  18. Above-ground fuel tank or gas storage facility for agricultural activities
  19. Home business, a home industry, or a home occupation
  20. Hot water heater or hot water storage tank
  21. Landscaping structure or letterbox
  22. Playground equipment, portable swimming pool or spa, or a child-resistant barrier
  23. Privacy screen, roller shutter door, and rainwater tank
  24. A shade structure of canvas, fabric, mesh or the like
  25. Skylight, roof window or ventilator

The construction and installation of these structures are considered exempt development as long as the structures are not done on or in a heritage item, a draft heritage item, on land in a foreshore area, or in an environmentally sensitive area. Minor internal and external building alterations also do not require building approval, and neither are the demolitions of all mentioned exempt developments.

You can read all the applicable standards for these exempt developments in the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008.

When do you need to get a building permit?

Most forms of major domestic building projects will require building approvals or permits obtained from a building certifier. This includes the construction of new homes, as well as renovations and extensions to existing properties. You must secure a building permit which can be obtained through a licenced private building certifier before proceeding with the building work or face the penalties as proposed by the Building Industry Fairness Act 2017 (BF Act).

Penalties for not getting a building permit

Penalties for any unlicensed building work may include the following:

  • notices and orders, such as stop-work notices or enforcement notices
  • prosecution for criminal offences
  • fines of up to $44,000
  • injunctions to restrain or remedy serious breaches (court orders).

The council can also order demolition of the building works. Aside from the penalties, not getting the required building approvals could affect the future sale of the property, as well as affecting the validity of the home’s insurance policy.

Ask a professional

You may think there’s no harm in continuing with your building project without getting a permit. However, regardless of the type of work being carried out, it’s highly advisable that you still play it safe and contact a professional for advice. An experienced building certifier will determine if the work you are planning to do really requires a permit and will make sure that you’re going to comply with all building and construction laws in your state. It will also help you avoid any hefty fines or other penalties in case you are in fact in the wrong.

iCertified can help make sure that your renovation, extension or repairs are fully compliant with industry and Council regulations. We have accredited private building certifiers operating in Brisbane, Gold Coast, and the Sunshine Coast.

Call us on 1300 899 078 or submit an online enquiry to to learn more about building permits and whether you require one.