Building Permit

Before you can start building you need a building permit.

In the old days, building permits were issued by councils, but they’ve been privatised for quite awhile now. Private building surveyors are licenced to issue permits, and review the design to ensure code and planning permit requirements are met and conduct periodic inspections of the build to ensure that it is being built in accordance with the approved design. In theory, if they do not ensure compliance, they can be deregistered.

Builders used to be able to directly employ building surveyors to issue the permits and conduct the inspections. In Victoria, this is now illegal – the owner must appoint the building surveyor directly, to ensure the building surveyor has no conflict of interest.

This is a good thing – if your next job as a surveyor is dependant on your relationship with a builder, you’re much less likely to be “picky”, conservative or require strict compliance.

Codes, standards and regulations are always up for interpretation, and as the owner, you want a conservative design and quality build, not one that scrapes in by creative interpretation. (an engineer’s joke – put 5 engineers in 5 different rooms and give then the same problem, you’ll get 5 different solutions. Put the same 5 engineers in the same 5 rooms a week later, give them the same problem and you’ll get another 5 solutions).

It’s really important that you get an independent surveyor – there’s a reason the regulations were changed. Some building surveyors have been deregistered for not ensuring compliance, but you don’t want to own the house that gets them deregistered.

Our experience of selecting the surveyor is covered in the blog post.

Ok it was in a different country, but my sister-in-law’s new build house had slanting floors and felt like walking on a trampoline, amongst other issues. The building surveyor was employed by the builder, who made strong representation that it was code compliant, and maybe with very creative interpretation it potentially was – but it was certainly not fit for purpose, it was virtually unliveable. After several years of legal battles, and public campaigns, since a number of houses were in a similar state, the problems were ultimately rectified. But this is not somewhere you want to go. And it likely only reached a satisfactory conclusion since she was not the only one impacted, and the faults were so egregious.

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