Appointing a building surveyor

A building surveyor is a professional trained in understanding the building control process. 

There are two types of building surveyor:

  • private building surveyors
  • municipal building surveyors

He or she is authorised to assess building plans with a view to ensuring they comply with the Building Act 1993, the Building Regulations 2006 and the Building Code of Australia.

Building surveyors are responsible for ensuring buildings are safe, accessible and energy efficient and therefore have an impact on the design, planning and functionality of buildings.

A building surveyor remains involved for the duration of the building project. They carry out inspections – or have a building inspector carry out inspections on their behalf – to sign off each stage of construction.

You can only appoint one building surveyor to a building project.

Once building work is complete, the building surveyor is responsible for issuing the occupancy permit or certificate of final inspection.

A registered building surveyor is authorised to:

  • assess building permit applications for compliance with the Building Regulations 2006
  • issue building, occupancy permits and certificate of final inspection          
  • conduct building inspections
  • serve building notices and orders under the Building Act 1993

Appointing a building surveyor

Municipal building surveyor

If you decide to engage a municipal building surveyor, you do not need to formally appoint them – simply apply to them for a building permit. To do so, contact the Municipal Building Surveyor's office at your local council.

Private building surveyor

You can search for a local building surveyor using eToolbox or by visiting the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors website.

We recommend appointing your building surveyor before you apply for the building permit. In most cases a private building surveyor will ask you to sign a professional service contract or will write to you to confirm their appointment.

Note: Once you have made an application for a building permit and the building surveyor has started carrying out their functions for your project, that person may be considered the appointed building surveyor for your project.  This applies even if you have not signed a contract or provided written confirmation of the appointment.

A private building surveyor must notify the relevant council within seven days of being appointed to a building project. Once building work is underway, the person in charge must ensure that the building surveyor's registration number and contact details, as well as the details of the building permit, are displayed on a site sign.

Authorised agents

You can authorise your builder, or another person acting as your agent, to appoint a building surveyor for you. If you appoint an agent you must provide them with a written authority before they can act on your behalf.

Before you sign a domestic building contract or a contract for building design services, check if it includes an authority for your builder or designer to appoint a building surveyor. You should only sign this authority if you agree to allow the builder or other person to appoint your building surveyor.

Terminating the appointment of a private building surveyor

Sometimes it becomes necessary to change building surveyors before a project is complete.

In most cases, you must obtain written consent from the VBA in order to terminate a private building surveyor's appointment.  This needs to happen before a new building surveyor can be appointed (under section 81 of the Building Act 1993).

The only exceptions are if a building surveyor's registration is cancelled or suspended, or if they die. Under these circumstances, there is no need to seek consent for the termination, as the surveyor is no longer deemed to be registered.

Note: the VBA does not have the authority to terminate the appointment of a municipal building surveyor.

Applying for consent from the VBA

The VBA will only consent to terminating the appointment of a private building surveyor if the reasons provided are in accordance with the Building Act 1993.

Simply disagreeing with the decision of a building surveyor is not sufficient grounds for termination. There must also be no indication of a dispute between the owner and the building surveyor.

Consent may be granted if:

  • the building surveyor is no longer registered
  • the building surveyor has retired or become insolvent
  • the owner intends to transfer the functions of the relevant building surveyor to a municipal building surveyor
  • the building surveyor has left the employment of the company that is providing the building surveying service
  • the original owner sold the property to a new owner before the commencement of building work at the property
  • the building surveyor is no longer capable of carrying out their functions (i.e. due to chronic illness
  • there is a legal action between the owner or agent and the building surveyor that may prevent the building surveyor from properly carrying out his or her functions under the Act.

To request consent, complete the following form:

Request for consent to terminate a building surveyor

By mail:

Victorian Building Authority
PO BOX 536
MELBOURNE VIC 3001

By email:

customerservice@vba.vic.gov.au

Note:

  • The owner of the property must complete the form
  • We recommend you inform the building surveyor/s affected so they are aware of the situation
  • If possible, you should include written advice from the relevant building surveyor stating that they are willing to transfer their functions to another building surveyor

Cancelled or suspended registration

If your building surveyor's registration has been cancelled or suspended, or they are deceased, before your building project is finished, you will need to appoint a private building surveyor to complete the project.

Work cannot progress beyond the next mandatory notification stage of the building permit until a new building surveyor has been appointed and conducted an inspection.

Remember, there is no need to seek consent to terminate the appointment of a private building surveyor if their registration has been cancelled or suspended, or they are deceased.

Once you have appointed a new building surveyor, they must notify your local council of their appointment (under section 80 of the Building Act 1993). They will also need to familiarise themselves with the building work and associated documentation, which council may be able to help with.

You should notify VBA of your new building surveyor's appointment. You can do this by submitting a completed Notice of Appointment form.
If you have any questions, view our FAQs section or contact us for more information.

FAQs

Does the VBA appoint a new building surveyor?

The VBA has no role in selecting or appointing a new building surveyor.

When transferring the functions to another building surveyor, you should decide who you wish to proceed with as the building surveyor for your project. Once you have located a building surveyor who is willing to accept the transfer of functions, you may need to seek the consent of the VBA to appoint them.

Is the VBA involved with the transfer of work from one building surveyor to another?

The VBA is able to give written directions to facilitate the transfer of functions to the new building surveyor when necessary. Failure to comply with these directions is a prosecutable offence carrying a maximum fine of in excess of $4,000 for an individual and in excess of $72,000 for a body corporate.

What happens if the second appointed building surveyor issues the building and/or occupancy permit without consent being given to terminate the first?

Where a second building surveyor claims to be appointed for building work that is covered by an earlier appointment, the second appointment may be invalid. Any functions that the second building surveyor carries out on the basis of that appointment may also be invalid.

What if I want to terminate an appointment of a municipal building surveyor?

The provisions of the Building Act 1993 that allow a person to request consent to terminate the appointment of a private building surveyor don't apply to the relevant council's municipal building surveyor. Once the municipal building surveyor has commenced to carry out building surveying functions for a project, that person, or that person's replacement as municipal building surveyor, must remain with the project.

What if I want to terminate the appointment due to a dispute with the building surveyor?

If a request is sought because of a dispute, the VBA is unlikely to provide consent for the termination. Some disputes can be resolved through the Building Appeals Board or by other means. If you have concerns about a building surveyor's professional conduct you should take your concerns to the VBA or the Building Practitioners Board.

What if I want to terminate an appointment when no building work has commenced?

The VBA is more likely to consent to the termination at an early stage of a project when there has been no building work carried out. This alone however, may not be a sufficient reason for consent to be granted.

Can I appeal the VBA's decision?

If the VBA refuses consent for the termination, the building owner or building surveyor can appeal to the Building Appeals Board.