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, and
  • municipal building surveyors.

Building surveyors are authorised to assess building plans with a view to ensuring they comply with the Building Act 1993, the Building Regulations 2018 and the National Construction Code.

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 mandatory notification 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 Act 1993, Building Regulations 2018 and National Construction Code
  • Issue building and occupancy permits, and certificates of final inspection
  • Conduct building inspections at the mandatory notification stages
  • Serve Direction to Fix non-compliant building work, and
  • 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 will then be known as the relevant building surveyor for your project. This applies even if you have not signed a contract or provided written confirmation of the appointment.

Legislation introduced on 1 September 2016 prevents the builder from appointing the private building surveyor. The appointment of the private building surveyor must be made by the owner or an agent of the owner other than the builder.

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 on the property in a visible location.

Authorised agents

You can authorise another person to act as your agent and 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. However, new legislation that commenced on 1 September 2016 prevents the builder from appointing the private building surveyor.

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

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the VBA appoint a new building surveyor?

It is not the role of the VBA to appoint a private building surveyor. Only an owner or agent of the owner may appoint a private building surveyor.

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 do not 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.

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.