The following are commonly asked questions and answers about domestic building approvals as accessible from the Local Government and Planning Web site.

What is the role of local councils?

All councils are required to provide building certification services. This includes providing general advice on building applications and issuing building permits. However, many smaller councils only provide those services on a part-time or consultancy basis.

In addition, where a concession to building siting is required, the council has a specific obligation to consider any request to relax those requirements.

For further information about these services, contact your local council. All councils are required to provide building certification services. This includes providing general advice on building applications and issuing building permits. However, many smaller councils only provide those services on a part-time or consultancy basis.

In addition, where a concession to building siting is required, the council has a specific obligation to consider any request to relax those requirements.

For further information about these services, contact your local council.

What is the role of a building certifier?

A building certifier is responsible for assessing whether proposed building work complies with all relevant provisions of the Building Act and associated standards.

The building certifier who issued the building permit must also carry out certain inspections to determine if the building work complies with the approval.

While a building certifier can provide general advice about compliance of building work with the legislation, they are not permitted to design the building or carry out any of the work. Therefore, specialist advice on building applications should be sought from the appropriate design professionals.

A building certifier is responsible for assessing whether proposed building work complies with all relevant provisions of the Building Act and associated standards.

The building certifier who issued the building permit must also carry out certain inspections to determine if the building work complies with the approval.

While a building certifier can provide general advice about compliance of building work with the legislation, they are not permitted to design the building or carry out any of the work. Therefore, specialist advice on building applications should be sought from the appropriate design professionals.

When is a building permit required?

A building permit is required before carrying out most types of building work. The approval process involves assessment by a building certifier against the Building Act 1975 and associated regulations and standards, and the issue of a building permit.

Some minor building work does not require a building permit. (See 'What work is self-assessable?' and 'What work is exempt?')

When in doubt whether a building permit is required, enquiries should be made through the Council or a private building certifier.

For enquiries about whether a building permit is required, how to apply for a building permit or the standards applicable to building work, contact either:

  • your local council building certifier; or
  • a private building certifier - look under 'Building Certification Services' in the Yellow Pages.

When in doubt whether a building permit is required, enquiries should be made through the Council or a private building certifier.

What other approvals may be required?

There are a number of aspects that may require Council approval, such as a reduction of a minimum building setback from a boundary or any impact the work may have on the amenity or aesthetics of the neighbourhood.

Owners can obtain more information on this directly from the Council or through a private certifier.

Aspects of domestic building work such as the maximum height, setback or character of a building may also be controlled under a council planning scheme. In these cases, it is necessary to obtain a planning permit from the Council before a building permit can be issued.

Owners can check with the Council to determine if planning approval is also required.

There are a number of aspects that may require Council approval, such as a reduction of a minimum building setback from a boundary or any impact the work may have on the amenity or aesthetics of the neighbourhood.

Owners can obtain more information on this directly from the Council or through a private certifier.

Aspects of domestic building work such as the maximum height, setback or character of a building may also be controlled under a council planning scheme. In these cases, it is necessary to obtain a planning permit from the Council before a building permit can be issued.

Owners can check with the Council to determine if planning approval is also required.

What work is 'self-assessable'?

Some minor building work is deemed to be self-assessable.

While a building permit is not required, the owner is responsible to ensure it complies with any applicable standards, such as structural sufficiency, size limits and boundary setbacks.

Examples of self-assessable building work include:

  • a small tool shed, stable, fowl house or the like up to 10 square metres in area, other than in a tropical cyclone area;
  • a 1 m high retaining wall (providing no loads are imposed above it, such as a building or driveway); and
  • a fence not more than 2 m high (but not including swimming pool fencing).

A full list of self-assessable building work can be found in schedule 5 of the Standard Building Regulation.

This minor building work may, however, require approval under the Council's planning scheme. Owners are responsible for complying with any self-assessable standards and the planning scheme.

Some minor building work is deemed to be self-assessable.

While a building permit is not required, the owner is responsible to ensure it complies with any applicable standards, such as structural sufficiency, size limits and boundary setbacks.

Examples of self-assessable building work include:

A full list of self-assessable building work can be found in schedule 5 of the Standard Building Regulation.

This minor building work may, however, require approval under the Council's planning scheme. Owners are responsible for complying with any self-assessable standards and the planning scheme.

What work is exempt?

Some building work is deemed exempt. Exempt building work does not require a building permit and the owner does not have to meet minimum building standards.

Some exempt building work may, however, require approval under the Council's planning scheme. Owners are responsible for complying with the planning scheme and should make enquiries with the local Council before starting any work.

Exempt building work applies to minor structures and includes:

  • fixing minor attachments to a building such as a sun hood no more than 1 metre from the building;
  • repairs and maintenance to existing buildings;
  • the construction of playground equipment not more than 3 metres high.

A full list of exempt building work can be found in schedule 5 of the Standard Building Regulation.

Some building work is deemed exempt. Exempt building work does not require a building permit and the owner does not have to meet minimum building standards.

Some exempt building work may, however, require approval under the Council's planning scheme. Owners are responsible for complying with the planning scheme and should make enquiries with the local Council before starting any work.

Exempt building work applies to minor structures and includes:

A full list of exempt building work can be found in schedule 5 of the Standard Building Regulation.

Who can issue a building permit?

Either a private building certifier or your local Council can issue a building permit.

However, a private certifier cannot issue a building permit until the Council gives all other necessary approvals, such as a preliminary approval under the planning scheme for assessment of the character of the building, or a reduction of a minimum building setback from a boundary.

Either a private building certifier or your local Council can issue a building permit.

However, a private certifier cannot issue a building permit until the Council gives all other necessary approvals, such as a preliminary approval under the planning scheme for assessment of the character of the building, or a reduction of a minimum building setback from a boundary.

How do I engage a private certifier?

Most private building certifiers advertise their services in the Yellow Pages. Consumers can enquire about the accreditation history of a private or local government building certifier by contacting the Building Services Authority on telephone (07) 3225 2969.

As with the engagement of any contractor, it is wise to ask for details of past clients, so that enquiries can be made about the standard of service received.

The agreement to engage a private certifier must be in writing, and state the certification fee. Most private certifiers will have a standard engagement agreement, however, you should check that any conditions contained in the agreement are acceptable to you.

Most private building certifiers advertise their services in the Yellow Pages. Consumers can enquire about the accreditation history of a private or local government building certifier by contacting the Building Services Authority on telephone (07) 3225 2969.

As with the engagement of any contractor, it is wise to ask for details of past clients, so that enquiries can be made about the standard of service received.

The agreement to engage a private certifier must be in writing, and state the certification fee. Most private certifiers will have a standard engagement agreement, however, you should check that any conditions contained in the agreement are acceptable to you.

Will a building certifier act responsibly?

All accredited building certifiers are bound by a strict code of conduct, and have an obligation to always act in the public interest. Severe penalties can apply if they fail in these duties.

The Building Services Authority (BSA) carries out audits of building certifiers' work, investigates complaints and can take disciplinary action against building certifiers found guilty of professional misconduct.

Any person may lodge a complaint with the BSA against the action of a building certifier.

The BSA also has available for purchase a publication entitled 'Consumer Guide', which provides advice about the building process and building practitioners for people thinking of undertaking building work.

All accredited building certifiers are bound by a strict code of conduct, and have an obligation to always act in the public interest. Severe penalties can apply if they fail in these duties.

The Building Services Authority (BSA) carries out audits of building certifiers' work, investigates complaints and can take disciplinary action against building certifiers found guilty of professional misconduct.

Any person may lodge a complaint with the BSA against the action of a building certifier.

The BSA also has available for purchase a publication entitled 'Consumer Guide', which provides advice about the building process and building practitioners for people thinking of undertaking building work.

When will a building inspection occur?

When a building permit is given, a condition of the approval will be that certain mandatory inspections must be carried out.

Once the building work reaches a stage when the work can be inspected, the builder must give the building certifier a notice, whether in writing or by other means, advising that building work has been carried out to a stage when inspection can take place.

The purpose of the inspections is to ensure that the building work is being carried out in accordance with the building permit and relevant building standards.

Building inspections for the construction of a house must be performed at the following stages:

  • Footing: includes inspection of the foundation material and the reinforcing steel before concrete is placed;
  • Slab: includes a check on the bearing capacity of the soil, inspection of the moisture-proof barrier, and the reinforcing steel before concrete is placed;
  • Frame: covers inspection of the frame including timber sizes, fixing, tie-down, and bracing before the cladding or wall linings are fixed; and
  • Final: includes checking on any previous outstanding items and the collection of certificates such as termite protection, wet area membrane installation, glazing, and certification of engineer designed elements such as roof trusses.

The final inspection will also cover aspects such as:

  • the control and discharge of stormwater;
  • the height of the floor above ground;
  • support of any earthworks necessary to protect the building and other property;
  • protection against water penetration;
  • fire safety issues such as smoke alarms, solid fuel appliances, fire protection near boundaries and in designated bushfire areas;
  • room ventilation;
  • toilet door swing;
  • vermin proofing;
  • sub-floor ventilation;
  • termite protection and re-treatment notice;
  • stairs, handrails and balustrades; and
  • swimming pool fencing.

More details on the legislative requirements concerning inspections can be found in Part 8 of the Standard Building Regulation.

In addition to these building inspections, there are also mandatory plumbing and drainage inspections. Contact your local council for more details on what inspections may be required.

More details on the legislative requirements concerning inspections can be found in Part 8 of the Standard Building Regulation.

In addition to these building inspections, there are also mandatory plumbing and drainage inspections. Contact your local council for more details on what inspections may be required.

Can other persons inspect building work?

Building certifiers may carry out inspections personally, or may authorise a competent person to carry them out.

For example, the building certifier may authorise an engineer who is experienced in the inspection of concrete structures to carry out the inspection of the reinforcement steel of a concrete swimming pool instead of doing the inspection personally.

The building certifier is responsible for determining whether a person is competent to carry out a particular inspection, and must do this prior to the inspection.

Building certifiers often rely upon competent persons to inspect and certify aspects of work that are outside the competence of the building certifier, or where it is impracticable for the certifier to be present during a particular phase of construction.

Building certifiers may carry out inspections personally, or may authorise a competent person to carry them out.

For example, the building certifier may authorise an engineer who is experienced in the inspection of concrete structures to carry out the inspection of the reinforcement steel of a concrete swimming pool instead of doing the inspection personally.

The building certifier is responsible for determining whether a person is competent to carry out a particular inspection, and must do this prior to the inspection.

Building certifiers often rely upon competent persons to inspect and certify aspects of work that are outside the competence of the building certifier, or where it is impracticable for the certifier to be present during a particular phase of construction.

Do building certifiers supervise the quality of building work?

No. The primary function of inspections is to determine that construction work complies with the approved plans and relevant building standards.

It is the responsibility of the contractor and owner, working together, to ensure the building work is carried out to an acceptable standard of quality and finish. Some owners may consider it desirable to engage their architect or designer to supervise these aspects of the work. No. The primary function of inspections is to determine that construction work complies with the approved plans and relevant building standards.

It is the responsibility of the contractor and owner, working together, to ensure the building work is carried out to an acceptable standard of quality and finish. Some owners may consider it desirable to engage their architect or designer to supervise these aspects of the work.

Who is responsible if a mistake occurs?

The building contractor has statutory and contractual obligations regarding the approval and inspection process however, the homeowner is ultimately responsible for ensuring a building permit is issued, and any mandatory inspections are carried out.

Some builders offer a complete design, approval, and construction package. If the builder is to arrange for the building permit and inspections, the owner should discuss and agree on these certification arrangements with the builder, and record details of the agreement in the contract.

The builder must, on behalf of the owner, comply with any lawful requirement relating to the building work. If it is found that an aspect of building work does not comply with the building legislation, under the building contract the builder must rectify the defect.

However, while the property owner may have recourse under the contract against the builder, the owner is still responsible for having the building work brought into compliance with all relevant legislation.

Which party meets the cost of rectification will depend on the reason for the mistake; it may have to be borne by more than one of the parties. Where difficulty is experienced in determining which party is to meet the cost, dispute resolution facilities are available through the Building Services Authority.

The Building Services Authority can be contacted on telephone (07) 3225 2800.

Further information

For more information, phone Building Codes Queensland or email DELF Industries through the contact form on the contacts page.