Development Application and Building Approval Process - Owner Builder Club

Development Application and Building Approval Process

Building Approval - What's required?

Owner building can sometimes come with its fair share of confusion, well for some (maybe not all), and some of that confusion relates to the necessary approvals before even getting to the build. We're talking about the owner builder permit, the development application and the building approval process.

Let's face it, endless paper work and documentation does not sound as thrilling as choosing the perfect kitchen bench, but trust us, it's equally important.

So, let's get into it and ensure your owner-builder journey is as smooth and hassle-free as possible.

IMPORTANT NOTE: We say this a fair bit – processes and terminology will differ depending on the state you're building in. Therefore, it's super important that you visit the Owner Builder section of the your state government PLUS, call or visit your Local Council. This will ensure you understand the requirements specific to your state and your build.

Demystifying the Required Approval Processes

Approval processes. Sounds big and intimidating, doesn't it? Stay with us as we attempt to break it down and make it as easy as possible to understand.

Let's start with the Owner Builder Permit approval process

This is possibly the easiest process! You can check out more by clicking here, however put simply, you need to obtain an Owner Builder Permit to officially become an Owner Builder. Noting, an Owner Builder Permit is different from a Building Permit.

Who issues the Owner Builder Permit? The state government body for the state you're building in.

And to do this, yep, you guessed it, there's a process to follow! We'll use the process in Queensland as an example as gleaned from the QBCC website:

Step 1     First check if you need an Owner Builder permit

Step 2    Check your eligibility

Step 3     Estimate the value of the work

Step 4     Do the required accredited course

Step 5     Gather the necessary documents

For example, proof that you own the land, proof of identity, Certificate of Completion from the required Owner Builder course

Step 6     Provide a detailed plan of work to be undertaken

Step 7     Complete the form

Step 8     Submit and pay fees

To give you an idea, in Queensland, the fee to apply for an Owner Builder Permit (as at 2023) is $461.79.

Now let's move onto the Development Application process

Okay, so now we're moving to the Development Application process, for short, the DA. This can be an overwhelming process however without consent, you can't build.

Who issues the Development Approval?  The local Council for the area you're building in.

This time we'll use NSW as an example. Planning NSW provides an excellent resource to help people who are building or renovating through the process, whether an owner builder or for someone who is using a registered builder under the traditional build model.

And again, the process itself can differ by state, here's a general guide based on NSW:

Step 1 – Pre-lodgement

At this stage you'll have your plans. Know that it's an option to get assistance from your draftsperson, designer or architect to help you with the application (especially if it feels overwhelming). Additional fees may apply for this type of service but it could be worth at least understanding the cost.

Step 2 – Lodgement

Based on what you learnt in 1, you (or your designer) will be ready to submit your application with the required reports (and pay the application fee).

Step 3 – The assessment

Now for the waiting game. Yes, I can hear you ask how long will it take and that will depend on a number of things. For example, the complexity of the build, how good your local Council is with approvals of DA's and if more information is required (that can slow down the process). It could be weeks, it could be months!

Step 4 – The decision

You'll be advised of Council's decision and hopefully, will then be ready to request a Construction Certificate (you need to appoint a Principal Certifying Authority).

The Construction Certificate / Building Approval process

Think of the Construction Certificate / Building Approval as getting a ‘green light' for your construction project.

Who issues the Construction Certificate? In NSW, it's the appointed Principle Certifying Authority (PCA) either Council or a private certifier.

The Step Here is – Getting the Okay

The appointed PCA will issue the Construction Certificate and believe it or not, you'll be ready to start the build process! The PCA will also do the required inspections during the build.

In Queensland, a Building Development Application is submitted in order to get a Building Permit. To get a permit, the application can be assessed either by your local Council or a Certifier.

In Victoria, the term is Building Permit and a permit is issued by a private building surveyor (note terminology is surveyor not certifier) engaged by the owner and registered with the Victorian Building Authority (VBA).

The building approval is what ensures your construction project meets all the necessary building codes and standards. It guarantees that your house will be safe, sturdy, and suitable for living. Without it, you might face penalties, delays, and the potential risk of having to modify or even demolish your work.

So, while it might seem like just another piece of paperwork, building approval is actually your ticket to a successful, worry-free owner-builder journey.

It's the go-ahead you need to start turning your dream home into a reality!

And finally, the Occupancy Certificate or Permit

Oh gosh, you won't believe it when you get to this stage of your build. Imagine standing in front of the home YOU built, with a feeling of complete and utter satisfaction.

So, who issues the Occupancy Certificate? In NSW, it will be the PCA.

In Victoria, it's an Occupancy Permit issued by your Building Surveyor. NOTE: an Occupancy Permit is not required for an extension/renovation as it's already an existing building, a Certificate of Final Inspection is what's required for extensions/renovations.

In Queensland, a Final Inspection Certificate is issued by a Building Certifier.


It's a big mind boggling, we're exhausted from writing about it 😅 but you know what, this is an exceptional life experience: it's about crafting your dream home.

Embrace the process, learn from the experiences of others, and approach your own builder-owner journey with excitement and confidence.

As you embark on this adventure, keep in mind the importance of thorough preparation and attention to detail. Leverage the expertise of a certifier/surveyor to ensure your plans are compliant, and be proactive in avoiding common pitfalls.

The road might be challenging, but the rewards – a home built to your exact specifications and tastes – are truly worth it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the penalties for not complying with building regulations?

Failing to comply with building regulations can result in hefty fines, orders to demolish or rectify non-compliant work, and even legal action. It's always best to ensure your work is compliant to avoid these consequences.

Can I start building before my approval comes through?

No, you should never start construction before receiving formal building approval. Doing so can result in fines and legal action.

How long does building approval usually take?

The time frame for building approval varies depending on the complexity of the project and the efficiency of your local council or private certifier. Generally, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months.

Can I make changes to my plans after they've been approved?

Any significant changes to your approved plans will need to be assessed and approved by your certifier. Minor changes may not require approval, but it's always best to check with your certifier first.

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