7 Things You Must Know Before You Become An Owner Builder

As an owner builder, you will take on the legal responsibilities and compliance requirements that are associated with the project. Therefore, before you become an owner builder, it is important that you are aware of the building standards, building codes, quality of work and obligations that are attributed to your role.


1. Who is an Owner Builder?

As an owner builder, you have to own or co-own that land with the intention to live in your newly built home upon completion. This means that any works carried out on your property should really be for your own personal enjoyment, not for investment purposes.


As the place is for you, you can have more involvement in the construction, alterations or repairs conducted and be in complete control of the renovations in your home to have it exactly how you want it – within the legal requirements of course!


Before you register as an owner builder, you should prepare documentation showing you are the property owner. These documents could include the Certificate of Title or Register Search Statement which you can obtain from www.land.vic.gov.au


2. Certificate of Consent

Before you start any building works, there are a number of permits which must be obtained. You’ll need to apply for a Certificate of Consent from the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) if the value of domestic building work is $16,000 or more. The valuation should include the cost of all labour and materials as well as GST.


Prior to applying for a Certificate of Consent, the owner builder will need to complete an eLearning Assessment through the VBA website. You must provide evidence that you have successfully complete the eLearning Assessment when applying for your Certificate of Consent.


If your premises becomes a workplace you must also undertake Construction Induction Training, also known as ‘White Card Training’. To be able to apply for an owner builder Certificate of Consent, you bust submit evidence of your current Construction Induction Training Card also known as a WorkSafe White Card.


The VBA will the decide whether to issue you with a Certificate of Consent. When deciding, they will consider the following:


  • Whether you intend to live in the property upon completion of the building work;
  • Whether you own or co-own the land for which a building permit has been granted in respect of an owner builder project in the past 5 years;
  • Whether you have the prescribed knowledge of the duties and responsibilities of an owner builder.


3. Building Surveyor and Building Permits

For any building works being taken out on your property, you will need to have a building permit. It is wise that you consult with a Building Surveyor beforehand.


The Building Surveyor can help you determine a correct description of your works and the costs involved. This is particularly useful to have when applying for your Certificate of Consent. It is important to know that a Certificate of Consent does NOT guarantee that you will be issued with a building permit. The Building Surveyor will also check relevant plans and specifications and ensure that the building work complies with the requirements of the Building Act and Building Regulations.


Once the building permit has been issued, building works may commence.


4. Sub-Contracting the Works

Being an owner builder, does not necessarily mean that you have to carry out all the works yourself. In most cases, unless you are a skilled tradesperson or carrying out very minor works, you will not have the skills and expertise to carry out the actual construction of your new home. You may have to engage a Registered Building Practitioner to undertake some of the works or oversee the works on your property.


If you decide to engage with a Registered Building Practitioner they must provide you with a Domestic Building Contract for any works over $5,000 which includes all materials and labour. The written contract is necessary to set out the scope of work for the builder so that both of your know what to expect during the project and the final outcomes.


For any works over the value of $16,000 the Registered Building Practitioner must take out domestic building insurance.


It is important for you to know that if you hire an unregistered building practitioner they will not be able to take out domestic building insurance and you will not be able to obtain insurance cover for your project. You can check your builder’s registration information through the VBA website. It is also important to check their category of registration so you know what type of works they are registered to undertake.


Aside from contracted works, as an owner builder, you are still liable for your legal responsibilities under the Building Regulations. It is important that you are aware of these and are able to oversee the building works.


5. Domestic Building Insurance

If you’ve seen the terms Domestic Building Insurance, Building Warranty Insurance and Home Warranty Insurance, don’t be alarmed – they are all the same, merely with different names.


The insurance is coverage of the builder’s work on your property. VMIA is the only insurer available in Victoria, and it covers up to $300,000 for structural defects up to six years and non-structural defects for up to two years.


If you have sub-contracted a builder, ensure that the builder provides you with a certificate of insurance as proof that domestic building insurance has been issued for your property.


The insurance extends to a subsequent purchaser of your property if you sell your house within six and a half years of the completion of building work.


6. Occupancy Permit

Before you can ‘move’ into your newly finished home, you must obtain an occupancy permit. This is to ensure that the building passes health and safety requirements.


Occupancy permits are issued by the Building Surveyor when the building is considered suitable for use and occupation. Without this permit, it is illegal to move into your home.


An occupancy permit may be issued with minor works still outstanding. These could include paint jobs or incomplete fittings. However, just because you have your occupancy permit, the builder is still required to complete these works as per the building contract.


7. Advantages of being an Owner Builder

It may sound as though there is a lot to go through to become an owner builder, and you may wonder why anyone chooses to take on this responsibility. However, the fact remains that home building is rewarding. Being in charge of your own building project gives you control over the design and aesthetic of your home but also control over the budget and costs of your project.


Once complete, you have in reality the dream home you’ve always wanted and the satisfaction of knowing you were able to successfully manage the building project yourself.



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