There’s nothing as thrilling as the prospect of building your dream home, but an exciting challenge can quickly turn sour if you fall foul of bureaucracy, so it pays to do your paperwork before you start.

Before laying your first slab it’s critical to make sure council approval is secured. This typically entails a three stage process of obtaining development consent, obtaining a construction certificate and appointing a principal certifying authority.

Development consent must be obtained for any development, by submitting an application with your relevant council. Once this has been approved you can lodge a construction certificate application, which verifies that the construction plans and specifications for your development are consistent with development consent conditions and comply with the Building Code of Australia (BCA). Work cannot commence until a valid construction certificate has been issued for any proposed building works, a legal requirement under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, 1979.

construction_shotBuilding work generally means any activity involved in the erection of a building, and includes alterations and additions. Construction certificates are issued by your local council – you should contact the planning advisor or officer – or by a private accredited certifier. Your application must include: a completed form, detailed building and construction plans with specifications, full payment of the application fees, and any documents requested to be submitted to the consent authority as a condition of consent.

Once this phase has been completed, you can appoint a Principal Certifying Authority (PCA). Typically your local council or a private accredited building surveyor, the PCA oversees the construction phase of a development and certifies that a building/work has been inspected and that construction meets the appropriate standards. Works cannot commence until your council is notified of the appointment of a PCA.

In addition to a construction certificate, three other types of certificates are required under the Act, issued by a council or PCA: a compliance certificate – confirming that works have complied with plans and development consent; occupation certificate – authorising occupation of a new building; a subdivision certificate – for land subdivision.  This also applies to strata subdivisions, which require all owners’ written consent.  If a company owns the property, an individual acting with the company’s authority must provide consent.  If the property is under a strata title, then in addition to the owner’s signature, consent of the body corporate is required.