Owner builder information

As an owner-builder, you have a number of obligations under the Building Act with which you must comply. Owner-builders need to understand not only the technical aspects of building, but also the administrative, legal, Occupational Health & Safety and taxation requirements associated with building construction.

The following information aims provide an overview of these matters, but there are occasions in which you will need to seek more specific advice from Council or other relevant government departments and authorities.

Project documentation

The owner-builder must ensure that the construction is undertaken in accordance with the approved plans and documents. Any variations to the approved documents must be authorised by Council under the Building Permit. It is the responsibility of the owner-builder to ensure that any amended plans/details are supplied and Council’s approval is sought prior to those works commencing.

Although you may make various changes throughout the construction phase, you are advised to make sure Council has the most up-to-date documents on its records.

Contractors and Sub-contractors (domestic construction)

An owner-builder employs each building trade contractor (tradesperson) to carry out work on their project. These tradespeople are, for legal purposes, called ''Contractors'' as opposed to a Sub-contractor. When a Contractor carries out building work exceeding $5000, including labour and materials, the Building Act 1993 requires that person to be registered with the Building Practitioners’ Board.

They must provide building defects insurance appropriate to their work. Contractors include, but are not exclusive to, bricklayers, carpenters, tilers, plumbers, electrician etc.

Should an owner-builder engage someone to supervise building work on their behalf, for example, an architect, draftsperson, project manager or engineer, that person is treated by the Building Act 1993 as a manager/supervisor and must be registered with the Building Practitioners’ Board. Registration with the Board is only possible when they have provided evidence they have taken out appropriate defects insurance. Even if you do not pay the works supervisor, they must still be insured.

Contractors as described above are required to provide you with their Building Practitioners’ Board registration details and warranty insurance applicable to your project. This ensures that the practitioners are recognised and registered building practitioners, and secondly that if anything goes wrong during construction, or for a period of six years and six months after completion, there is insurance in place for the associated works.

Council must be notified of the appointment of any building practitioners, together with their registration details.

Completion

A final inspection is required for all building works, regardless of the scale or nature of the project.

The Building Permit indicates whether an Occupancy Permit or a Certificate of Final Inspection is required prior to occupation or re-occupation of the building.

Before an Occupancy Permit can be issued, a copy of the Plumbing Certificate for the plumbing works (for example, hot and cold water installation, sewer, gas-fitting, roofing and stormwater) must be supplied to Council. Where indicated on the Building Permit or the approved documents, other details may also be required (for example, Termite Protection Certificate, Glazing Certificate, etc.).

Additional Requirements

Relevant Authorities

Authorities such as GMW water, Powercor, Telstra and other service authorities may have additional requirements. Contact each relevant authority before you commence work to determine their specific requirements.

Prescribed Payments for Sub-contractors

Owner-builders also have obligations to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) with respect to prescribed payments for Sub-contractors. Although this is not an issue Council is directly involved in, a monthly report is provided to the ATO with details of all Building Permits issued by Council.

It is recommended that you contact the ATO early in the project to check your responsibilities regarding the deduction of taxation from payments to contractors and the keeping of appropriate records.

Selling your property

Works with Building Permits issued after April 1, 1994, and sold within six years and six months of completion must be inspected to determine the condition of the works and to list any defects. This must be done by a suitably qualified Building Inspector or Building Surveyor.

Insurance will then need to be obtained through a private insurance company to cover the remainder of the insurance period. This requirement applies to all building work regardless of its value and applies to all new works, including additions and alterations to houses, sheds, garages and carports.

Building work carried out and insured by a Registered Builder (including sheds) may be sold immediately without any need for the report and insurance described above. (This is provided by the Registered Builder).

Disputes

If a dispute arises, deal with it quickly. Advice can be sought from the following parties:

  • initial advice and consumer complaints - Office of Fair Trading and Business Affairs
  • technical matters - relevant Building Surveyor (named on Building Permit) or Building Control Commission
  • major domestic building contracts - Builder's insurance company or Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal
  • minor domestic building contracts (under $5000) - Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal
  • General advice regarding disputes and mediation - Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal