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Buying a home

Building and development approval in QLD – what to know

3 May 2022


Building a new home or making major renovations is an exciting time. You’ve got your vision planned and are already imagining lazy Sundays around the pool. However, making major changes to your property – whether it be subdividing land, building a new home or even clearing land – requires pre-approval from a Local Government Authority (LGA).

To help you get started on your dream build, check out the differences between development approval and building approval and what steps you can take to get the ball rolling.

What’s the difference between building approval and development approval?

Building approval guarantees your project complies with applicable building laws, including the Building Code of Australia. This ensures the safety of everyone involved in the project as well as the structural integrity of your freshly built home.

Development approval (development permit, DA approval or decision notice) is necessary for any sort of development of land. This can include new property builds and is provided by your LGA. Depending on the project, you may also need to meet some extra conditions.

For example, if you want to clear some of your land to build a holiday lease apartment, a development approval makes sure you’re not clearing away protected wildlife or vegetation.

What work doesn’t need building or development approval in Queensland?

Smaller repair jobs in and outside your home may not need building approval, but it’s important not to start any sort of renovation or repairs without seeking advice. For instance, renovations to your bathroom may require new plumbing to be installed, which could require planning or building approval.  

One way to find out if you need building approval is to contact a licensed private building certifier or building consultant. You can find them through the Queensland Building and Construction Commission's website under ‘find a local contractor.’

If the work you’re planning affects the structure of your building, there’s a good chance you’ll need building approval. Even turning a garage into a bedroom may require building approval as you’re changing how the structure is being used.

Who can help you with getting advice for building or development approvals?

A private or government-affiliated building certifier can provide valuable advice when it comes to building approvals and development approvals. For example, if you want to add a second storey to your home or build a new home on a plot of land. Your LGA will be your go-to when it comes to getting advice and guidance on building or development approval prep.

If you’re working with an architect, builder or draftsman, they should be able to help you in your application process. They will have extensive experience in lodging applications and will probably include this in their list of services and quote.

What’s the building approval process in Queensland?

Receiving building approval does take some planning, but lodging an application for building approval is usually a relatively straight-forward process:

1. Prepare your building plans.

An architect, engineer, or draftsman you’re working with can supply these plans.

2. Get in touch with a building certifier.

They know building regulations and could help you avoid pitfalls that could slow down your application. While an internet search will yield local building certifiers, contacting your LGA can be a good first step.

3. Building approval is provided by the building certifier.

Once you receive building approval, you can move on to the next stages of your build. A building certifier will inspect your works at various stages before finally giving you a Certificate of Occupancy when they’re satisfied your project is up to par. Note that a Certificate of Occupancy is not required for a single detached house.

For more information on these steps, check out the Queensland government’s 'Get in the game' factsheet (PDF)

What’s the development approval process in Queensland?

A private or government-affiliated building certifier can provide valuable advice when it comes to building approvals and development approvals. For example, if you want to add a second storey to your home or build a new home on a plot of land. Your LGA will be your go-to when it comes to getting advice and guidance on building or development approval prep.

If you’re working with an architect, builder or draftsman, they should be able to help you in your application process. They will have extensive experience in lodging applications and will probably include this in their list of services and quote.

1.    Determine what development you're undertaking

Your development requires assessment if it is:

  • building work
  • plumbing or drainage work
  • operational work
  • reconfiguring a lot (subdivide)
  • material change of use of premises (i.e. commercial to residential)
  • clearing native vegetation
  • demolition of an existing building

This is not an exhaustive list. Before undertaking any projects, please refer to your local government area (LGA) for confirmation. Additional info can be found on the Queensland Government website.

2.    What assessment is required?

Your assessment for development can be classified as either:

  • Code Assessable – this applies to a development that fits within existing planning instruments but may be inconsistent with existing local planning codes.
  • Impact Assessment – assessment of a development against the local planning requirement, such as a development which does not align with the current site zoning. In these instances, the public will be notified so the community can have a say.

3.    Complete the appropriate application and submit to your local LGA

Most local government authorities (LGAs) can help you with your initial enquiries about development applications. For more information about how to apply, check out the Queensland government’s 'Get in the game' factsheet (PDF).

4.    Your LGA will issue a decision notice

Once you receive development approval, you can move ahead with the plans for your site.

What about financing for your project?

Before you break the soil, you’ll want to be sure you’re up to speed on construction loans. A Suncorp Bank home lending expert can help answer your questions and discuss different options available to you. All consultations are 100% obligation-free.

Talk to a home lending expert

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