Council Approval - What's the Harm in Building Without it?


Whether it’s a fit out, a restoration, or a commercial construction project, we’re always very careful about gaining the right council approvals and permits. Some people assume if their neighbours don’t object to new construction, they can flout council approval. But what are the consequences of building without council approval?

The council may deem your structures or renovations illegal

If you undertake any type of new construction on your premises that may affect others, chances are you do need some kind of council permission first. This can take time, but proper planning prevents poor results. If you find a builder that’s prepared to build without proper approval (that’s quite a big red flag there!) any modification or structure you undertake is deemed an illegal structure.

Some people conduct major construction or modification themselves without council approval, which further complicates matters. If you are not a licensed builder or tradesman, you run the risk of constructing or renovating incorrectly. This can lead to ongoing structural damage, drainage and plumbing issues, or electrical faults. With an approved and properly planned structure, you can avoid many of these issues from the beginning.

This causes headaches when you need to claim on insurance

Since unapproved modifications and structures are illegal, your insurance company won’t recognise them as part of your property. If an illegal structure suffers fire or flood damage, or inflicts harm on another person or neighbouring business, your insurance company will not honour any claims – even if you have public liability insurance. This means not only may you may have to pay for your own damage, but also damage to third parties.

It causes more headaches when you sell your property

When it comes time to sell your property any illegal building works will put you out of pocket. When both parties check council records during the settlement process and they don’t match with what’s on your property, it’s your responsibility to bring all the illegal building works up to today’s standards. This can potentially break a sale, leaving you to pay for all the repairs and renovations – or in some cases, demolition. If you lease your shopfront or place of business, building without permits is not only bad for business, but could be a major breach of contract.

Can you get “retroactive” approval for building works?

It’s a misconception that in some jurisdictions, you can gain “retroactive” approval for illegal building works. The thought is, “well it’s up now, so the council has no choice but to approve it!” This isn’t entirely the case. Sometimes councils issue builders certificates, allowing structures to stay for five years if they pass an inspection. However, if a person injures himself or herself during such an inspection, the property owner is liable for damages.

So is bypassing council approval worth it? Not in the least – it could cost you thousands upon thousands of dollars, curb your plans to sell, break your lease, and in extreme cases, could mean a complete tear down of your investment. For the best results, it’s best to rely on the experts!

Angelique Upson