REG-12
March 2017

The Ramification of Illegal Alterations in a Building

AUST  Hendry advises the absence of a statutory Certificate of Occupancy as a formal sign-off leaves the property owner, tenant or property professional exposed to the possibility of non compliant building works, an unsafe building and future fire safety audits and upgrades, as well as possible insurance implications, with the additional costs of these outcomes to be met by the owner or tenant.

Where building permits /approvals are issued in relation to building work within an existing building, generally a form of completion certificate or Certificate of Occupancy (Certificate of Classification) needs to be issued to provide evidence that the works have been carried out to provide a building suitable for occupation.

These final building control documents signify that a building surveyor is either satisfied that the building complies with the building permit, and has approved a building (or building part) as being suitable for occupation or that the works have been satisfactorily completed, and would then issue the Certificate of Occupancy or Certificate of Final Inspection depending on your State.

Moving into a recently built building (or part of a building under renovation) before a Certificate of Occupancy / Classification is issued, is an offence in many states. Occupants need to ensure they have the necessary Certificate of Occupancy / Classification to occupy the building, otherwise they may risk their safety and risk being prosecuted.

In addition to the responsibility of the Building Surveyor ensuring that building permits are finalised, it is in the best interests of the owner and builder that building work has been satisfactorily completed and that final sign off has resulted in the Certificate of Occupancy or Certificate of Classification.

A building owner should complete the building work and obtain the required Certificate of Occupancy for the following reasons:

  • Where the building work is found to not comply with a building permit, the contractor can rectify issues while still on site and no additional interruptions or costs may be experienced later.
  • Generally where a building permit is required for the building, it is an offence for a person to occupy the building unless the Certificate of Occupancy or Certificate of Classification has been issued.
  • When an owner wishes to sell a property, prospective purchasers may want to know that any building permit issued in relation to the property has been formally finalised.
  • Some liability periods are triggered by the date of issue of the Certificate of Occupancy. This period maybe extended beyond the time necessary, through delaying the obtaining of the final sign off.
  • Owners of commercial buildings have a legal responsibility to ensure that maintenance of essential safety measures is carried out, and in some States, that an annual essential safety measures report is completed.
  • Owners need to ensure that their interests are covered in the event of an insurance claim.

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