Appointing a building surveyor
Building surveyors are professionals trained in understanding the building process. They are responsible for ensuring buildings are safe, accessible and energy efficient.
You will need a building surveyor for any project that requires a building permit.
What a building surveyor does
A building surveyor is involved for the duration of the building work. They ensure the building work complies with legal requirements and they issue the building permits that allow work to commence. Building surveyors carry out inspections (or have a building inspector carry out inspections on their behalf) to ensure building work is being undertaken correctly. They also issue an occupancy permit or certificate of final inspection when the work is completed.
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
- give directions to fix for non-compliant building work
- serve building notices and orders.
There are two types of building surveyor:
- private building surveyors
- municipal (local council) building surveyors.
You can choose whether you use a municipal or private building surveyor. You can only appoint one building surveyor to a building project. Ending the appointment of a building surveyor can only happen in rare circumstances – find out more at Ending the appointment of a building surveyor.
Appointing a building surveyor
There are different processes for appointing a building surveyor, depending on whether they are a municipal or private building surveyor, as well as if work is domestic building work under a domestic building contract.
- If you decide to engage a municipal building surveyor, you do not need to formally appoint them – simply apply to your local council for a building permit.
- Only an owner or agent of the owner may appoint a private building surveyor. It is not the role of the local council or the VBA to appoint a private building surveyor. By law, the builder can't appoint the building surveyor if work is domestic building work under a domestic building contract.
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 (RBS) for your project. This applies even if you have not signed a contract or provided written confirmation of the appointment.
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.
A private building surveyor must notify the relevant council within seven days of being appointed to a building project.
You can authorise another person (such as your architect or draftsperson) 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. Remember that the builder is not allowed to appoint the private building surveyor if work is domestic building work under a domestic building contract.
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 to appoint your building surveyor.