The quick guide to Surveyor's Reports and Building Certificates

At PestBuildLegals, we always advocate for putting together the best team to ensure that you buy the perfect home. This includes a good local building and pest inspector, as well as a property conveyancer. However, before you buy a property of land, or if you plan to build on your existing property, you will often require development approval, and to get this you need to hire a Chartered Building Surveyor.

What is a Building Surveyor? 
According to the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors (AIBS) Building Surveyors  have the "authority to assess building plans to ensure that they comply with the Building Code of Australia, the Australian Standards referenced within it and any other relevant Building Acts or other legislation or requirements of the jurisdiction the building is in”

Put simply, you will need to hire a building surveyor to ensure that your plans for grand extensions are met with approvals and ultimately - permission to proceed!
Not only is this essential, but doing this process (if successful) can significantly add value to your home before you have even laid any bricks. It is not uncommon to see properties for sale with ‘DA approval attached’ and a price tag to match.  The message is clear ‘we’re selling this property as is but it has this much potential”

A Building Surveyor should and must be engaged for the length of the project if you decide to proceed with the construction. This is because the approval is not a ‘one-off event’. A surveyor must be there at regular stages to sign off each stage of construction until completion.

A Surveyors Report before you buy
Let's assume that you are about to buy a home and have arranged your Pest Build and Legal Inspections. You feel the property has the potential to be improved. You may want to go up a level, add a permanent shed or granny flat, or extend to add another bedroom for a growing family. Whatever the case may be, you would be wise to have a Surveyors Report completed.

This initial report will confirm and clearly define the boundaries of the property whilst also providing a detailed sketch of the land, identifying where the structures sit in relation to these boundaries and evidencing whether the structures on the land are encroaching onto the neighbouring property - and vice versa. A surveyors report will ensure that what you see is what you get - and can prevent lengthy and costly disputes in the future with neighbours or potential buyers

Obtaining a Building Certificate
In order to finalise a build, once the Building Surveyors has signed off on completed works - you will want to obtain a Building Certificate issued by the Local Council. 

What is a Building Certificate?
A Building Certificate  (not to be confused with a pre-purchase building inspection) - is a certificate issued by the Local Council.  The Council will attend the property in person to inspect the structures on the land, and will issue a Building certificate confirming that all improvements are satisfactory to the Council.

If there are issues, the Council can decide to delay issuing a certificate and instead issue a work order. This order is legally enforceable and will require further work to be done to remedy any non-compliant structures.

In conclusion: Do I have to do this and why is this important?
These reports are not legally required. You could just go right ahead and start building and hope for the best! Many have done this in the past (especially in remote areas) and just as many have bought homes not realising that they have illegal structures on them. Despite some 'getting away with it' it really is ill-advised.  Instead, be wise and before you buy a property ensure that you are actually getting what you paid for. A surveyor can assess and support your plans for building and expansion - and increase the chances that you will be successful i.e. that building is approved and ends in receipt of a Building Certificate. Failing to do so, and you could find yourself paying a high cost to remedy - or even worse - take down any structures or modifications you make or inherited. 

The key is, always to be informed and ensure you have the best possible support and information before making serious decisions in regards to property. 
Written by Ben Saravia,  

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