If your house or property has suffered damage during a
recent storm event, before the rebuild it is important that you
understand the building and planning laws that may regulate your
Although planning and building regulations may be the last of
your concerns, complying with them will help to avoid any future
headache inducing and potentially costly legal issues.
Do I need a building approval to repair my
Under the Building Act 1975, a building approval will
not normally be required where the work involves repairing or
For example, you will not require a new building approval
repairing kitchen drawers, vanities or floor coverings (e.g.
repairing or replacing internal wall linings (e.g. replacing
In some instances, exemptions may apply for minor structural
work that does not affect more than 20 per cent of the
building's structural parts, for example, replacing a
like-for-like roof beam.
Where you are undertaking more extensive repair work that will
likely affect the structural components of your building, you will
most likely require a building approval and before undertaking any
works you may need to engage a building certifier to confirm the
proposed building work complies with relevant building codes.
What if it's an emergency situation?
The Sustainable Planning Act 2009 provides an exemption
for building work undertaken in emergency situations (e.g. where a
roof is at risk of collapsing). This exemption allows building work
to be done without first obtaining the standard approvals due to an
emergency endangering life or health, or the structural safety of a
In those circumstances, the building work may be undertaken
without a building approval; however you must advise your local
government in writing as soon as practicable after starting the
work so that they stay informed.
What if I need to demolish my house and start
Where a property is outside a character area (or other
protective overlay) and the building is structurally unsound, the
building can generally be demolished without obtaining planning
approval. Even where a planning approval is not required, you
should check to see whether separate building approval is required
for the demolition component of the work.
If a house is located in a character area or where you have a
state or locally listed character place, a planning approval is
likely to be required. If you are unsure whether your house is
protected, you should contact your local government before
undertaking any work.
Will I need a planning approval?
If you are simply rebuilding a previously existing building
structure (i.e. like-for-like) you will not need a further planning
approval albeit you will still require a building approval and will
need to comply with the relevant building codes. This is because
planning approvals run with the land indefinitely. If in doubt, you
should always contact your local government to discuss your rebuild
Often it can be difficult to source approved plans for older
houses. Where you are unable to locate a copy of the approved plans
for your building, the use of evidence such as photographs, aerial
images, and other plans (including sewer and drainage plans) may be
relied on to assist with reproducing the destroyed building.
The Queensland Building and Construction Commission provides a
series of fact sheets for owners who are rebuilding after a natural
disaster event. These include information on asbestos removal,
rebuilding to ensure compliance with cyclone prone area building
requirements, and guides to rebuilding a residential house after a
Cooper Grace Ward is a leading Australian law firm based in
This publication is for information only and is not legal
advice. You should obtain advice that is specific to your
circumstances and not rely on this publication as legal advice. If
there are any issues you would like us to advise you on arising
from this publication, please contact Cooper Grace Ward
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Whilst option to purchase clauses are more in commercial properties, they are now being included in residential leases.
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