A person’s home is his castle, a place of sanctuary, shelter, and safety. Many homeowners dream of playing an active role in their own building or renovations.
You may need to obtain an owner-builder permit to play such an active role which may attract a number of legal, regulatory and formal responsibilities. It is important that you are familiar with some fundamental requirements before commencing any building or renovation work.
5 Fundamental Requirements:
- Do the Research:
Becoming an owner-builder means taking on the responsibilities of a builder, including liabilities, insurance, on-site safety and financial obligations. It’s important to understand what your responsibilities and obligations are, i.e. restrictions, required permits, credentials, experience, etc. Ignoring any owner-builder responsibilities or obligations could be legally onerous and financially detrimental.
Statutory regulations pertaining to owner-builders may vary between states. Even if you’re a registered owner-builder in one state you are recommended to check with your local state authority to ensure that you meet all local requirements.
- Formalise your Contracts
Owner-builders are required to enter into formal contracts with appointed trades people, depending on the value of the building work to be undertaken. The document could be a ‘small job’ contract or an ‘extensive work’ contract but each contract must include certain provisions based on the nature and value of the work to be undertaken. It is recommended that all work undertaken by trades people be contained within a formal written agreement to formalise specifications, standards, cost, termination, penalties, etc.
- Meet certain Education and Accreditation Criteria
To undertake renovation work as an owner-builder, there may be education and accreditation criteria to be met to ensure that the individual has the appropriate skill and competency levels to carry out the renovation work. These criteria may include a general building work licence or qualified supervisor certificate, working knowledge of reading and interpreting plans and specifications, the ability to undertake basic estimation and costing, etc.
To fulfill the relevant criteria, you may need to show evidence of an approved qualification and/or experience or to complete certain units of competency.
- Appoint Only Licensed Trades People
Some building activities are only to be carried out by competent and licensed trades people, e.g. plumbing and electrical work. All trades people appointed by the owner-builder must hold the appropriate license from NSW Fair Trading, or the equivalent body in your state.
- Obtain the Applicable Permit
An owner-builder takes on the responsibility for building works to their own home. Before carrying out any renovations as an owner-builder, you are required to obtain an owner builder permit from the NSW Fair Trading, or equivalent. The owner-builder permit is not a builder’s licence however, as an owner-builder, you will bear the same level of responsibility for the work carried out as a fully licensed builder and your responsibilities and obligations may extend beyond the completion date of the building work.
A renovation may be a complex activity with unknown technical, legal, insurance, and regulatory boundaries. Seek advice from your local regulatory body, your council, architect and friends who have done this before, to ensure that you’re making sound, informed decisions.