10 most important building and construction laws you need to know

The construction industry is one of the largest in Australia, making up a large part of economic growth. As such, there is a significant reliance on structure and procedure. Everything has a process, and deviating from these processes even in the smallest of increments only has detrimental consequences. 


Additionally, there are numerous laws, rules and regulations that must be followed by each individual in the industry. Here are 10 of the most important building and construction laws you must be aware of in order to remain compliant and prevent any issues for yourself when engaging in construction projects. 



1. You need to have educational qualifications


As with most industries, you need to have some sort of education that has been provided by an institution. This is the only way to ensure professionals are hired and part of the labour force whilst also having legitimacy. 


You may be more proficient in something than others who do indeed possess qualifications, but you would have a clear and distinct lack of trustworthiness as those with qualifications can prove their skills by providing a certificate, whereas you could not. Organisations do not want the hassle of weeding through applications and having to dig to find information on how you obtained your knowledge.


The construction industry is the same. It would make sense that if you have not obtained the qualifications required, you cannot be a verified member of the industry. People without any semblance of qualifications who engage in construction face significant legal implications, even potentially risking imprisonment.


The industry follows the Australian Qualifications Framework, which specifies the standards of educational qualifications in Australia. There are 10 levels, which include:


  • Certificate I
  • Certificate II
  • Certificate III
  • Certificate IV
  • Diploma
  • Advanced Diploma, Associate Degree
  • Bachelor’s Degree
  • Bachelor Honours Degree, Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma
  • Masters Degree
  • Doctoral Degree


The most useful courses within this framework for construction are the Certificate IV in Building and Construction (Building) and the Diploma of Building and Construction (Building). Generally, completing the Certificate IV course at the bare minimum is enough to be considered for many construction roles. Nonetheless, it is important that you complete courses in building and construction to be legally allowed to eventually become a registered builder. 


10 most important building and construction laws



2. Experience is a must


Educational qualifications are not the only component you must be aware of. Hands-on experience goes hand in hand with education, and must be completed to be eligible for roles in building and construction. This generally comes in the form of an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship is a job where training, on-site learning and a salary are combined. The entire construction industry considers apprenticeships to be the final stage of learning before full-time certified employment becomes available. Typically, three (3) years should be enough to offer one adequate in at least three (3) homes, at all stages of the construction and this experience must be attested to by the resident registered builder supervising the project. However, the relevant registering authority, the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) offers a time scale of seven (7) years, that is projects that the applicant has been part of over that period.


It is also not sufficient to state that you have had that relevant experience. The VBA also requires the following to confirm that experience. 


  • For each of the project, the VBA requires the address of the building project
  • Building permit documents in A4 size
  • Maximum of 10 photos at different stages in the construction projects
  • One (1) set of elevation in size A3 
  • One (1) section through building in A3 
  • One (1) site plan including hindrances faced and Setbacks 
  • One (1) Floor Plan in size a3 and I engineers drawings in A3


By gaining experience, you solidify your positioning in the industry as a professional who abides by laws of progression.



3. A Builder’s License is a requirement


To be a builder, you can’t simply anoint the title to your name. Like with education and hands-on experience, there is a formal process that must be followed and can’t be deviated from under any circumstances. You need a Builder’s License to be able to be a registered builder. To obtain a Builder’s License, you must register with the VBA. The VBA are the central authority for regulating and monitoring all building activity in Victoria. Being registered with the VBA allows you to carry out certain construction work. This includes:


  • Undertaking domestic building work that has costs surpassing $10,000.
  • Re-blocking, re-stumping, demolishing, removing a home, or essentially any building task which requires a permit, regardless of project costs.
  • Providing more than one type of building work that surpasses $10,000.


4. There are different types of registrations


Obtaining a builders license isn’t as simple as just applying. In reality there are distinct categories of building licenses, and whichever you fall under will determine what you can apply for. Such categories include: 


  • Domestic Builder (Limited)
  • Domestic Builder (Unlimited)
  • Commercial Builder (Limited to low-rise work)
  • Commercial Builder (Limited to medium-rise work)


These categories differ in terms of their limitations, which means there are certain types of construction work that you will and won’t be able to do. For example, someone with a Commercial Builder (Limited to low-rise work) licence would not be able to undertake work of a domestic nature. This could only be done by someone with a Domestic Builder licence. 


More information can be found on the VBA’s website www.vba.vic.gov.au which details each category in more depth.



5. There are different licences for each state


Up until now we have been operating under the pretence that everything law-related is based in Victoria. We haven’t considered other states in depth, which would provide more scope and understanding as to what you need to know across the country. Generally speaking, most construction laws are quite similar with their laws in building and construction. This makes sense considering many professionals aren’t restricted to undertaking projects in their home state, but in fact expand to other states. 


The process for becoming a professional in building and construction only truly begins to deviate once education and hands-on experience is completed. When looking to obtain a Builders License, the requirements may slightly differ.


But most importantly, if you are wanting to perform construction in one particular state then it is incumbent upon you to make sure you have the right licence. For instance, the term ‘Builder’s License’ is not used everywhere in Australia.



6. Building acts


Apart from generalised laws, there are also more specific ones as well. For example, the Building Act 1993 is the most commonly referred to act in Victoria. The Act sets out the framework for the regulation of building construction, building standards and the maintenance of specific building safety features.


The objectives of the Act are to:


Protect the safety and health of people who use buildings and places of public entertainment and improve the amenity of buildings.


Another law is the Building Regulations (2018). The Regulations are a legislation apart of the Building Act and relate to:


  • building permits
  • building inspections
  • occupancy permits
  • enforcement
  • maintenance of buildings.


The Regulations utilise the Building Code of Australia (BCA), which is part of the National Construction Code.


The building regulations of Victoria usually are applicable for 10 years before undergoing an extensive review to ensure they remain relevant and meet requirements. Building processes, materials etc are always evolving based on the times. The VBA is an important body in the review process and implementation of the Regulations.




7. You must follow the National Construction Code (NCC) 


The National Construction Code, also referred to as the NCC, is an important code that is part of the fabric of rules and regulations in building and construction in Australia. The National Construction Code outlines the prerequisites for the design and construction of buildings in Australia, which comprises plumbing and drainage work. 


It outlines the minimum necessary level for the health, safety, accessibility and quality of buildings. There are 3 volumes of the NCC which go into depth regarding the types of buildings and the requirements for each type. They can differ depending on which volume they preside in.


  • Volume 1: concerned with Class 2 to 9 buildings.
  • Volume 2: concerned with Class 1 and 10 buildings.
  • Volume 3: concerned with plumbing and drainage work associated with all classes of buildings.


Following the NCC ensures you maintain compliance within the building and construction industry when engaging in projects.



8. You must follow the Building Code of Australia (BCA)


Another law to understand is the Building Code of Australia. This is actually volumes 1 and 2 of the NCC, so it is essentially the same as the NCC! It is imperative that you understand the further legal technical specifications surrounding not just the BCA but also the NCC to avoid any pitfalls in performing works in building and construction.



9. Obtaining Permits


This is one of the most important points that can be made with regards to building and construction laws. Permits form the basis of works completed in Victoria and Australia. Without a permit, you cannot legally perform construction on any spot or location. 


There are different types of permits. One type is a planning permit. According to the Victorian Building Authority, planning permits give permission to develop or use land in a specific manner. This could be for any type of project such as a home or renovation. To obtain a planning permit, you must liaise with your local council, who issue permits. You must get a planning permit before you get a building permit. 


Planning permit applications submitted to council may potentially require inclusion of the proposed design, planning report, shadow diagrams and other relevant documentation.


The other type of permit of importance is a building permit. Building permits are documents validating that a proposed building complies with the relevant building regulations. A building permit written and signed by a private or municipal building surveyor. Once you have a building permit, you can perform works according to the approved plans, specifications and other relevant documentation you have constructed. Some of the benefits of having building permits as stated by the VBA include:


  • The builders working on your project are registered
  • Satisfactory documentation is prepared so the construction can be carried out the right way and by the book
  • Inspection is conducted on the most important parts of the project
  • Your building is deemed fit for use



10. Timeframes for commencing and completing construction works


There are actually very specific timeframes in which you must complete construction. This depends on the type of construction you are engaging in. For example, house and outbuildings, as well as swimming pools and associated barriers or fences must be commenced within 12 months of the date of issue of the building permit. 


For houses and buildings, they must be completed within 24 months of the date of issue of the building permit, whereas for swimming pools and associated barriers or fences this date is 6 months, except if carried out in conjunction with other work. 


A common question that is asked is whether extensions exist. According to the VBA’s website, If you can’t commence or complete the building work in time, you can ask your building surveyor for an extension. You must do this before the relevant date passes. The building surveyor may grant an extension if the extent of the building work warrants it.


In the event they refuse, you may appeal the decision through the Building Appeals Board.


The building and construction has a plethora of laws, many of which are extremely detailed and in depth. In this blog we have summarised many of these laws, but the information for practically all laws and regulations can be found online. Many go in depth with legal specifications that require further understanding and comprehension and can’t be properly summarised to a point of simplicity. Despite this, taking the time to understand them so that you are confident in your recognition of them goes a long way to having a successful career in the industry.


Parker Brent is a provider of courses in building and construction. For more details, enquire here.