Planning and building permits

If you are undertaking any building work on your property, you'll need to find out whether your project requires a planning permit, a building permit, or both.

These permits are required by law and are designed to protect you. The Building Act 1993 (the Act) and Building Regulations 2018 (the Regulations) state that all building work requires a building permit, unless an exemption exists under the Regulations.

It's a good idea to seek advice from your local council if you are considering building work on your property to confirm whether a building permit or planning permit is required. You can also consult a building surveyor for advice.

Planning permits

Planning permits give permission to develop or use land in a particular way. You may require a planning permit for a new home, extension, renovation or an additional dwelling on the land.

The local council is responsible for issuing a planning permit. If you need a planning permit, it must be issued from your local council before you can obtain a building permit.

You may need to engage a town planner to determine if you require a planning permit for your building project.

Planning permit applications submitted to council may need to include the proposed design, planning report, shadow diagrams and other relevant documentation. Contact your local council for more information.

Building permits

Building permits are documents certifying that a proposed building complies with the relevant building regulations. A building permit is a written approval by a private or municipal building surveyor. It allows the building work to be undertaken according to the approved plans, specifications and other relevant documentation.

Having a building permit provides you with protection by ensuring:

  • the building practitioners working on your project are registered and carry the required insurance
  • adequate documentation is prepared so the construction can be carried out correctly and according to building legislation
  • key stages of the work are independently inspected
  • your building is suitable for occupation.

A building permit will specify that either an occupancy permit or a certificate of final inspection is required on completion of the building work. For more information, see At the end of your building project.

Not all building projects require a building permit. Possible exemptions may include:

  • some minor alterations or demolitions
  • pergolas associated with houses
  • some garden sheds with a floor area less than 10 m2
  • repair work for maintenance purposes.

For more information, see our Practice note: When is a building permit required?

How to apply for a building permit

Before applying for a building permit, you need to appoint a registered building surveyor. You apply for a building permit through your building surveyor.

Your architect or builder can apply for the building permit for you. However, you must first authorise them in writing to make the application on your behalf. If you have authorised another person to obtain a building permit on your behalf, you should check the relevant documentation and building permit before any work begins. You should avoid signing any blank forms authorising others to represent you.

To apply for a permit, you need to:

  • submit at least three copies of drawings, specifications and allotment plans along with the completed application form and other prescribed information
  • pay the building permit levy yourself or through a person authorised to do so.

Building permit levy

A building permit levy is based on the cost of the building work.

For building permit applications accepted by the RBS on or after 1 July 2019 , the levy is paid directly to the VBA by the owner, or the person authorised by the owner to pay on their behalf. This needs to happen before a building permit number is provided and the building permit can be issued.

A building permit application can be considered ‘accepted’ if the RBS has been appointed by the applicant and the application contains all the information required for the relevant building surveyor to:

  • apply to the VBA for a building permit number
  • estimate the costs of work and calculate the levy due.

When a building permit is issued

A building permit cannot be issued until a relevant planning permit (if required) is obtained. A building permit will only be issued after the building levy has been paid and we have issued a building permit number.

The building surveyor cannot issue a building permit for your project until any required consent of a reporting authority is received. For example, they may need consent from the local council or water authority if you want to build over an easement or the siting of a carport.

The building surveyor can decide to issue a building permit with or without conditions. The building permit issued may be a permit for the whole of the proposed building work or for a stage of the proposed building work.

The building surveyor will specify on the building permit the mandatory inspections that will be required throughout the course of the building work. They can vary the required inspections or carry additional inspections, if they think this is necessary. Your building permit will state whether you need an occupancy permit or a certificate of final inspection on completion of the building work. For more information, see At the end of your building project.

If you intend to carry out building work close to an adjoining neighbour's property, the building surveyor may require you to perform work to protect your neighbour's property. Find out more at Protecting adjoining properties.

In some instances, a building surveyor may refuse to issue a permit. If this happens, you can either alter the application to comply with the Regulations or appeal the refusal of the permit to the Building Appeals Board.

When building work needs to commence and be completed

The Regulations specify commencement and completion dates for building work associated with a building permit. If works have not commenced or completed within these times, then the building permit will lapse.

Type of building work

Required commencement date

Required completion date

Houses and outbuildings

Within 12 months of the date of issue of the building permit

Within 24 months of the date of issue of the building permit

Swimming pools and associated barriers or fences

Within six months of commencement of the work (except if carried out in conjunction with other work)

Re-erection of houses and out buildings

Within six months of the date of the issue of the building permit

Completed within 12 months of the date of issue of the building permit

All other building work

Within 12 months of the date of issue of the building permit

Within 36 months of the date of issue of the building permit

Requesting an extension

If you can’t commence or complete the building work in time, you can ask your building surveyor for an extension. You must do this before the relevant date passes. The building surveyor may grant an extension if the extent of the building work warrants it.

If they refuse to grant an extension, you may appeal the decision through the Building Appeals Board.

Lapsed permits

If a building permit lapses but building work continues, that work then becomes illegal and the relevant building surveyor may issue a building order to stop building work.

The building work may have been required to be inspected at one of the mandatory inspection stages and where works have continued, it is difficult to determine if the building work complies after it has been completed.

If an owner does not comply with the building order to stop building work, then the building surveyor will refer the matter to the VBA for further action.

The building surveyor who originally issues the building permit may refuse to approve the work or may require a part of the building to be exposed to be satisfied that the work is appropriate before issuing an occupancy permit or certificate of final inspection.

If a building permit has lapsed, and all that is required by the relevant building surveyor is certificates to demonstrate compliance (e.g. plumbing), then a new building permit may not be required. The building surveyor may issue the occupancy permit or certificate of final inspection once the compliance certificates have been submitted satisfactorily.

If a building permit lapses and building work is not complete, a new building permit will be required to enable completion of the unfinished building work. This requires a new application for a building permit.

The application must be made to the same building surveyor who issued the original building permit unless you have obtained an approved termination of their appointment from the VBA. The building surveyor will require plans that show the work to be completed and payment of fees and levies relative to that work will need to be paid.

Note: Additional fees may be incurred in relation to lapsed building permits. This matter should be discussed between the owner and the building surveyor.