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Old building permits lapsing

March 02, 2020

The relatively new Building Act 2016 recognises building permits issued under previous legislation.  This recognition however includes a cut-off date of 1 July 2020.  This means that building permits issued before 1 January 2017 will cease to have effect on 1 July 2020 if the permitted work is not completed or the permit otherwise cancelled before that date.  While current building permits are subject to time limits under previous legislation a time limit may not have been included in a building permit.  This means that some building permits for completed and occupied homes may remain current without final certificates recorded by the local council.

HIA is aware that this cut-off may cause problems with some older jobs where final paperwork may not have been lodged with the local council or misplaced by that council.  The building permit in such a situation will be a historical document with the building work completed and the home occupied for potentially over 25 years.  

It is understood that some local Councils have written to owners of properties with building permits issued between 1994 and 2012.  These letters state that the council does not have a certificate of completion for the building work authorised by the building permit and then informs the owner that they have to either extend the permit or pay fees for inspections and then a certificate.  If there is no response the building permit is cancelled.  This may seem irrelevant if the building work was completed a long time ago.  Unfortunately it is possible however that the lack of a completion certificate could frustrate a sale of the property in the future as a land information certificate issued for conveyancing may record the lack of the certificate.

Many of projects with old building permits will have been completed over 5 to 10 years ago.  This means that many of the records will no longer be kept by the builder, building surveyor or other businesses involved in the building project.  This obviously makes it difficult for the owner to prove that a certificate of compliance was sent to the council.  However, it is possible that a certificate was sent and the council failed to record the document or misplaced it.  Therefore the owner should not necessarily accept a council assertion that they must pay fees for the certificate of completion when they may have been happily and safely occupying the home for many years.

HIA recommends that if a member is contacted by a home owner about this issue that they seek further advice.  The home owner will probably be keen to have a certificate of completion for their property.  This may necessitate an application to extend the historical building permit as the only alternative to obtain a certificate of completion might involve obtaining a new building permit which may impose new building regulation requirements on historical building work which was completed to older requirements.  When applying for a certificate of completion it may be possible to convince the council that charging a home owner fees is unreasonable when it is difficult to prove who was responsible for the council not having a record of a certificate of completion.  In some circumstances a builder may also decide to contribute to the cost to assist the owner and avoid unnecessary stress and inconvenience for all parties.

For further information on building permits HIA members can contact HIA’s Building services team on 1300 650 620 or