An occupation certificate is required from your local council or a private certifier if you intend to occupy or use a new building or change the use of an existing building.
You’ll need to apply for an occupation certificate if you want to occupy or use a new building that has been completed or change the whole use of an existing building.
What is an Occupation Certificate?
An Occupation Certificate is legal permission to occupy a building. Why is an Occupation Certificate required? It is required by law in order to ensure all buildings are constructed to minimum standards as defined by Building Code Australia (BCA) and State and local codes. Without this set of standards, there would be no way of knowing if any building was soundly and safely constructed.
Approvals and certifications are step-by-step processes designed to protect all Australians:
- Development Approval (DA) or a Complying Development Certificate (CDC) ensures that an intended structure does not infringe on the rights or safety of surrounding properties or threaten the environment.
- A Building Certificate ensures that a building plan adheres to BCA and local building codes.
- An Occupation Certificate verifies that building codes have constructed a building.
While an Occupation Certificate can only be issued after construction is completed, the only way a building can be determined fit for occupation is if it is periodically inspected during the construction process. In order to assure that building codes have been adhered to, only an independent building inspector is authorised to carry out the inspections and issue an Occupation Certificate. Called a “Principal Certifying Authority” (PCA), their job is to carry out the inspections and notify you and your builder if anything needs to be rectified before building can continue.
To be eligible for this certificate you must provide a copy of:
- the relevant Development Consent or Complying Development Certificate
- any relevant Construction Certificate
- any relevant Fire Safety Certificate
- any relevant Compliance Certificate.
A Building Sustainability Index Certificate (BASIX) may also be required on request. Please consult the Contact Officer for more information regarding eligibility requirements.
What Types of Occupation Certificates are there?
A Final Occupation Certificate allows commencement of either the occupation or use of a new building (including alterations/extensions) or the new use of an existing building resulting from a change in its use.
An Interim Occupation Certificate allows commencement of either the occupation or use of a partially completed building or the commencement of a new use of part of an existing building resulting from a change of use of the building. The issuing of Interim Occupation Certificates is uncommon.
Where an Interim Occupation Certificate is issued, a Final Occupation Certificate is still required to be issued when all outstanding building work or the change of use is complete. A Final Occupation Certificate supersedes any previously issued Occupation Certificates. A Final Occupation Certificate is generally required to ensure insurance coverage.
Are Occupation Certificates required for all buildings and building work?
An Occupation Certificate is required for any new building work approved by a Construction Certificate or Complying Development Certificate, or change of use of a building where the building classification changes under the Building Code of Australia, that has been approved by way of Development Consent, or a Complying Development Certificate.
Occupation Certificates are not required for buildings that are exempt from development or development which does not require development consent.
Who can issue an Occupation Certificate?
An Occupation Certificate is issued by your Principal Certifying Authority (PCA).
Occupation Certificate Checklist
Standard information will be required prior to the issuance of an occupation certificate the following lists regulatory requirements:
Provide the following certificates:
- Engineer for all structural elements (where applicable);
- Wet area waterproofing (from the installer);
- Smoke detectors (from an electrician);
- Termite protection (and affix sticker to meter box);
- Glazing certificate from the manufacturer;
- Insulation (from the installer);
- Survey certificate (from registered surveyor);
- Provide written confirmation and/or evidence indicating that all work has been completed in accordance with the BASIX commitments (i.e. the second column of the Basix certificate);
- Provide written confirmation that all work has been completed in accordance with the provisions of the Building Code of Australia; and
- Complete and return the occupation certificate application form (note that the applicant cannot be the principal contractor as per clause 149 of the EP&A Reg 2000).
Please be advised that depending on your particular project, further information may be requested in accordance with relevant conditions of the associated consent such as:
- Landscape completion certificates;
- Section 73 certificates;
- Geotechnical reports;
- Asbestos clearance certificates;
- Hydraulic engineers certificates;
- Works as executed drawings;
NB: An occupation certificate (inclusive of Interim) can only be issued when the preconditions to development consent for occupation have been satisfied.
How to Get an Occupation Certificate
Only the person or business entity that stands to benefit the most from a construction project can appoint a PCA. In the majority of cases, that is the property owner and not a building contractor, unless they are also the property owner/developer. As the “beneficiary”, you can ask the council to appoint an accredited PCA, or you can appoint an accredited private service. Because the PCA will periodically carry out inspections throughout the building process, you must appoint yours before construction begins and notify your local council that they have been appointed.
If there is one difference between a PCA and any other trade professional, it is that their responsibility is to ensure that building work meets building code requirements. They are not responsible for supervising a building project or acting on your behalf in any other way. Some may be more experienced than others, though, or offer more competitive prices.
Building inspections must be carried out in a timely manner and not slow down the building process, so choose your PCA carefully, basing your decision on their level of experience and previous customer references rather than price alone. Their quotes should itemise all the required inspections and include the final Occupation Certificate. Before signing a contract, be sure their contract includes all these details.
If there is no Occupation Certificate, there can be significant complications as to the rights of the owner to occupy the property.
The critical time in considering the issue relating to an Occupation Certificate is initially at the time of entering into the Contract with the Builder or entering into an agreement to purchase the property.
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