Owner Builder Permit

To take on any building in Victoria you need to be a registered owner builder. The Victorian Building Authority website contains the details of what you need to do to become an owner builder, and what your responsibilities are, VBA Owner Builders.

If you become an owner-builder, you will be responsible for:

  • ensuring a building permit is obtained and paying the building permit levy
  • supervising or undertaking the building work
  • ensuring the work meets building regulations and standards
  • notifying the VBA if the estimated cost of works has increased at the end of the project.

There are insurance and inspection requirements, particularly if your building a house and you plan to sell within 6.5 years from the date of the occupancy certificate.

I need to be an owner builder for our bushfire shelter, since Wildfire Safety Bunkers won’t do it, and as I need to get the licence anyway, I might as well do it for the shed as well – saves us $2.5k. Since we have no plans to sell, I’m not worried about any potential restrictions, although its not clear that they would apply to the shed and bushfire shelter anyway.

To register as an owner builder you are required to complete a free e-learning course, available on the VBA website. It’s easy, and doesn’t take long – quicker than the course indicates. I did it in an afternoon. There’s a multiple choice questionnaire at the end of each module. If you get stuck on a question, you can always refer back to the training material in another web browser window… I found it a little annoying – an owner building couple were used to frame many of the questions, and it was almost always the woman who got it wrong/asked the dumb question. Written by a male dinosaur….

If you’re using more than one contractor (difficult not to), you also need to complete a “white card” or building induction course. Its about three hours and costs less than $200. There’s lots of them around because you need to do it to work on a construction site. I did mine through the local Chisholm TAFE.

The course was good, at least as delivered by the experienced Chisholm instructor. In my working career I’ve often spoken at similar company run courses to demonstrate management commitment to safety, and have attended some. We used external providers, and I frequently had to take them to task for poor information and advice because the instructor had no experience and was just reading course material, and answered questions incorrectly. Unfortunately, this did not qualify me for a white card, so I had to do the course.

If you’re not experienced on construction sites or in building, the course is worthwhile, but make sure that you pick one with the right instructor – try to find out their experience before you book to make sure its useful and accurate.

You then need to register with VBA – my white card never turned up, but I was able to get my registration number from VBA to complete the application. It costs around $100 to register. You need a different log in to register than the one you got for your e-learning – who knows why.

You then need to apply for your building permit(s), and put up an owner builder sign before the construction site. I’d have liked to have hung the sign actually just before the site, but was advised to put it on the road

The sign needs to have your name, contact number, owner builder registration number, building permit number, name of the building surveyor who issued the permit, and the date the permit was issued. I made my own – stencils from Kmart and some offcut material that we had.

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