Being an owner-builder

An owner-builder is someone who takes responsibility for domestic building work carried out on their own land. If you become an owner-builder, you will be responsible for:

  • obtaining building permits and paying the building permit levy
  • supervising or undertaking the building work
  • ensuring the work meets building regulations and standards
  • notifying the VBA if the estimated cost of works has increased at the end of the project.

If the value of the domestic building you will be doing is over $16,000, you will need to have a certificate of consent from the VBA to be an owner-builder. The value of the building work includes labour costs and materials, and is the estimated cost if you were to engage a registered builder to do the work. Your building surveyor or architect can help with calculating the cost of the work.

To become an owner-builder in Victoria, you'll need to meet several eligibility criteria. For instance, an owner-builder can only build or renovate one house every five years and must intend to live in the house once it is completed. Find out more at Owner-builder eligibility.

If you are planning on being the owner-builder for a swimming pool, spa or their safety barriers, find out more information about these projects on our Swimming pools, spas and safety barriers page.

Owner-builder duties and responsibilities

Being an owner-builder can be very satisfying, but it comes with certain risks and legal requirements. For instance, your property may become a workplace under Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) law. This means you will have obligations such as ensuring the site is safe for workers.

Owner-builders have several important duties and responsibilities. These include, but are not limited to:

  • obtaining and complying with a building permit
  • arranging for the certification of completed work and ensuring that the work is compliant with Australian standards
  • ensuring site and worker safety
  • rectifying any defective building work
  • ensuring appropriate insurance policies are in place if you sell an owner-built home.

It is important to have a thorough understanding of these duties and responsibilities. Some of the obligations of an owner-builder last for several years after completion of the building work. For example, if you sell your home within six and a half years after you finish the work, you will need to provide a defects report to the buyer and provide certain warranties.

Contracts with other tradespeople

As an owner-builder, you will need to enter into a major domestic building contract when you use a registered domestic builder, contractor or tradesperson to do work on your project costing more than $10,000 (unless a single trade exemption applies).

Registered builders, contractors and tradespeople must have domestic building insurance for all work over $16,000 (to cover you if they die, become insolvent or disappear). This is in addition to the builder's contractual obligations and warranties.

Some builders or tradespeople may ask you to apply for an owner-builder certificate of consent so that you appear as an owner-builder on the building permit, even though they will be doing all the work. If you do this, it may put you at risk. The person may be unregistered or trying to avoid their legal responsibilities. You are not an owner-builder if you intend to engage one tradesperson to do all the building work.

Working with a building surveyor

Discuss your building project with a registered building surveyor well before you are ready to build. A building surveyor is authorised to assess building plans to ensure they comply with the Victorian building laws.

A building surveyor must be appointed for the entire building project. You may choose to appoint a municipal building surveyor who works for a local council or a private building surveyor.