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Department of Justice

Illegal building work

Illegal work is work that has been completed without the required permits (building and/or planning), or certificates or work that does not comply with the National Construction Code.

For example, if a builder has carried out notifiable work under the guise of “low risk” work that does not require a certificate of likely compliance and inspection by a building surveyor, this will be taken to be illegal work.

If an owner has failed to get a planning permit and employed a builder to construct an extension on their house which contravenes the planning scheme, this will be taken to be illegal work.

An owner builder has obtained the appropriate planning and building permits, but then not built in accordance with the NCC, this may also be illegal work.

Sometimes illegal work can be made to comply with the relevant legislation, but sometimes an order will be made to remove/demolish the illegal work.

If any person with a statutory role, such as a building surveyor or permit authority becomes aware of the illegal work, they are required to report it.

Illegal work may also be reported by

  • builders,
  • neighbours, or
  • other persons.

The penalties for performing illegal work include

  • fines,
  • possible court action, and
  • potentially orders to rectify or demolish the work.

The fines for performing illegal work are significantly higher than the cost of applying for the appropriate permit. So it’s important to be aware that it is more expensive to build first and ask permission later. And there’s no guarantee you will be allowed to keep the work. There will be no compensation available for any losses incurred.

All illegal work must be completed as permit building work, even if it would have been classed as low-risk or notifiable work if performed in accordance with the Act.

The process for making the work legal will depend on whether or not the work can be made to comply with the Act.

A permit authority may serve a building order on an owner of premises where illegal building work has been performed, requiring the owner to either (by their choice):

  • Demolish the building work or building; or
  • Complete any remaining building work in accordance with the Act.

If the owner chooses to apply for the work to be made legal, they will need to apply for a certificate of substantial compliance from their building surveyor, which requests that the work be assessed as if it were an application for a certificate of likely compliance (permit building work).

The building surveyor can then submit the certificate of substantial compliance to the permit authority as part of an application for a permit of substantial compliance.

Illegal plumbing work is plumbing work that has been completed without the required permit, or plumbing work that fails to comply with the Act.

To rectify this situation, the owner must apply for a plumbing permit, even if the work could have been completed without a permit as low risk or notifiable work.

There are also penalties associated with performing illegal work.