Owner builder is the most sought out way for DIY enthusiasts. You can save up to 30% if you choose to play a major role in building or renovating your existing home. It not only saves money; you get an opportunity to get creative with your home.
As interesting it sounds, so confusing it was for myself to find the right resource on ‘how to become an owner builder?’. If you haven’t known, the process and the eligibility and the options vary with state.
Then is when I thought enough roaming around the internet to find the exact procedure. I have put together the complete information set you need to know to become an owner builder in Australia.
Who is an owner builder?
An owner builder is someone managing and/or doing a part of the construction process taking place in the land they own or lease. In general, Owner builder will hold the place of general contractor for the building construction.
The person is responsible or sub-contracting, managing and supervising the whole process for which the owner builder license is granted. He/She can also do construction work that does not require specific licensing like plumbing and electrical work.
Simply said it’s the owner who is licensed to build in his own premises after going through certain formalities which we will see in a bit.
But it is nowhere close to a builder’s license (except in the state of South Australia). An owner building permit is only applicable to the land mentioned in the application. Anything beyond that requires a new license and development approval from the local commission.
Do you need an owner builder license?
You need not go through the procedure of acquiring an owner builder license to painting your home. Some work like painting the tiles does not require any license or approval. If you are doing some serious work like taking down a wall you need to be aware of the license and permits.
First and foremost is the reasonable market cost threshold (labour + materials). Every state has its own threshold ranging from $10,000 to $20,000. Only projects that are evaluated higher than the threshold value require a license.
Development approval is another important factor influencing the need for the own-build license. If your reasonable market cost is still below the threshold value, but your work requires development approval, you must apply for the license.
Then there are other factors like property type (commercial/residential), ownership and type of building (single dwelling, multiple, etc) that contribute to the requirements of owner builder consent.
These factors are different across the states which is why we have developed a state-wise guide on owner builder license application.
Why should I become an owner builder?
The most common reason people choose to build their own houses or renovate is because of the potential for saving money. You replace the position of a general contractor with a pay scale of $30 to $50 an hour by carrying out owner builder construction.
Here are the benefits of owner building,
- Savings in term of money is the obvious benefit of owner building
- You get complete control over the creative process. Building your home by yourself means creative control in every aspect.
- Making use of friends and family and hiring the sub-contractors that best suit your needs.
- Pride of doing it by yourself. For the DIY nerds, the self-satisfaction that they get by doing their stuff is priceless.
Benefits are not the only thing you need to consider before submitting the owner builder application form. There are risks too, big ones if you are not trained enough. And it requires a lot of time, sometimes equivalent to having a full-time job. So, evaluate homeowner building risks vs benefits and make sure if it really suits you before moving forward.
How long does it take to acquire the owner builder license in Australia?
The owner builder certification is governed by local bodies of respective states and territories in Australia. The eligibility and application process varies slightly.
The expected timeline of acquiring the owner builder license from the date of applying is 4 weeks in most states. But there are other requirements like Development Approval, Certificate of Title, Safework White Card that you need to submit along with the application form.
Everything other than Development approval can be arranged within a weeks’ time in my experience. Development Approval and other legal clearances need to be addressed first either by yourself or with the help of building supervisor.
Steps to acquire Australian owner builder permit:
Since managed by state governments the process of getting an owner builder permit is not the same across the country. The differences are not drastic but are worth noting if you are looking to do owner builder construction.
Some allow construction pools, while in some states you can’t demolish under an owner builder contract. Let us see everything about owner builder licensing in every state, but before that, let’s see the basic steps in getting your owner builder consent.
- Find if you can really handle owner building. There are a lot of responsibilities and benefits that come with building your own home but not without risks. So, see if you are the right fit before proceeding.
- Make sure you meet all the eligibility criteria
- Older than 18 years of age
- Ownership of land the construction/renovation is intended to happen. Provide lease agreement for more than 3 years if you’re a lease.
- The house to be constructed/renovated must be a single dwelling. Dual occupancy is permitted in special cases in some states.
- Once you are sure about becoming an owner builder, get your building plan ready, you will need an Architect or a draftsperson to design the plan. You can also hire a building practitioner or supervisor to help you through the process of planning and knowing the estimated value of construction work.
- Apply for Development approval, if your state requires a DA for the type of construction you intend to do.
- Apply and get your construction induction card (work safety white card). You might require to attend certain induction program to be eligible for this.
- Take up the owner builder course accredited by your state construction board that issues the owner builder permit. Clear the assessment which is most often part of the application process.
Note: Every state has a different syllabus for owner builder courses. So, make sure you are attending the one that is valid in your state. Though it is mostly about work safety and how and what to do as a subcontractor, the source of the course matters for validation. If you are looking for some advanced owner builder course, get on the one-to-one training program. Book your free trial session here.
- Get your documents ready – DA, search statement, certificate of title, approval from water and sanitation board if required.
- Submit your application for owner builder permit to the corresponding board (QBCC, CBOS, VBA, etc.)
- You will be contacted if the application requires any changes. If everything goes well you must get your owner builder license within 4 weeks of application submission.
- Set-up display board notifying it is an owner builder project with the license number. Some states do not require this.
- Once the building work is complete, some states require a permit before the house can be inhabited.
State by state owner builder requirement and application process:
- New South Wales
- Australian Capital Territory
- Western Australia
- South Australia
- Northern Territory
New south wales owner builder license
You need to attend the white card course in person and do an owner builder course accredited by the NSW Fair Trading and to get an owner builder permit in NSW. New South Wales is one of the few states that allow people other than individual owners to take up owner building. But does not allow any commercial buildings to be constructed under the same.
- Must have completed 18 years of age when submitting the application.
- Estimated value of labour and material exceeding $10,000 (including GST).
- The intended construction project must be a residential property.
- Development consent from the local council.
- Ownership of property: you must be the owner or joint owner of the land, (or) a shareholder in the company that owns the land (or) a lease of more than 3 years
- In case of renovation or extension on an existing building, it must be single dwelling or dual occupancy (special cases). Apartments and multi-dwelling strata complexes are not eligible.
- You intend to live in the property after then construction.
- Complete owner builder course specific to NSW if the cost estimation is above $20,000.
- A current construction induction card
Click on this link to know your eligibility and to find the right application form to submit for owner builder permit NSW
- Any 3 active Australian proof of identity documents (Passport, driving license, Medicare card, etc).
- Copy of evidence of ownership document or registered long-term lease agreement with land and property information (council rates or water rates notice, Certificate of Title or Settlement Notice, ASIC company extract, Lease document)
- Estimated cost of development
- Copy of development consent (development approval (DA) or complying development certificate (CDC) approval from a certifying authority (council or private certifier))
- Valid general construction induction training card issued within the last two years (safework white card)
- NSW owner-builder course certificate (if the work value is over $20,000)
Application for owner builder permit NSW
Application fee: $183 + 70 (processing fee)
Replacement fee: $48 + 48 (processing fee)
The owner builder cannot proceed with the construction unless a Construction Approval is issued by the local council or certifier.
- Owner builder license in NSW region is restricted to only one property in five years. The rule applies to joint owners who are listed in the application even if they do not have a building license to their name.
- You can do any work that is not covered under DA or CDC that is submitted with the owner license permit application.
- The owner builder cannot perform specialist work unless you hold the specific trade license (electrical, gas fitting, plumbing, air-conditioning, etc)
- Selling the house that is built or renovated under an owner builder permit requires the sale contract to mention the work done under the owner builder. If the house is to sold within 7.5 years of issuing the owner builder permit in NSW.
- It is required to have owner builder warranty insurance under the Home building act 1989 If the work done exceeds $20,000.
- Workers compensation insurance – if the contractor is classified as a worker (depending on arrangements)
- Contract works insurance – insurance that the subcontractors should have.
- Public liability insurance (recommended)
- Owner builder home warranty insurance (if the value exceeds $20,000 and if sold within 7.5 years)
Victoria owner builders license
Victorian Building Authority (VBA) has an assessment of their own that you need to get through to become an owner builder in Victoria. Being a beneficiary of the trust or director of a company that owns the land where the construction is planned are also eligible to apply for VBA owner builder.
- You must be the owner of the land or director of the company that owns the land or beneficiary of the trust that owns the land.
- Building work planned is a single dwelling residence or ancillary to it.
- The value of building project (labour + material) is over $16,000.
- You reside or intend to reside in the construction land.
- You are not in real estate business and not entered into a contract to sell owner build home.
- Have not been a VBA owner builder in the past 5 years.
- You have completed VBA owner builder eLearning assessment (Victoria owner builder course completion)
- Completed construction induction training and hold an active WorkSafe Victoria white card, if your property will become workplace under Victorian OHS law. (If you employ sub-contractors to work for you)
- Proof of identity – photo, driving license or passport
- Proof of ownership – a Registered Search Statement (RSS) or Certificate of title. In case of joint ownership or owned by a company the co-owners or the director of the company needs to give written consent to the person applying for the owner builder license dated not less than 28 days of filing application
- A site plan may be required in some cases like building a detached studio, conversion of a commercial building into a dwelling.
- Copy of white card
- Proof of clearing the VBA owner builder course assessment
Register as a user on VBA 360 portal. Log in and apply for owner builder Victoria.
- The Victoria owner builder must notify the VBA if the cost of construction has exceeded the estimated value towards the end of construction.
- You need to get a work completion certificate, occupancy permit or a certificate of final inspection.
Owner builder permit does not allow carrying out demolition, sub-floor work or home relocation (as it involves re-stumping and re-blocking)
Only one owner builder permit is allowed based on a land every 5 years. The restrictions may be lifted in special cases if the applicant is proven to go through economic hardship.
Selling the owner built home, not 6.5 years old from the date of issue of an occupancy permit or certificate of final inspection requires Domestic building Insurance. You also need a defect inspection report signed by a building surveyor, building inspector or engineer which is not more than 6 months old.
Domestic building insurance, if the owner builder is selling the house 6.5 years from the occupancy permit issue date. This needs to be purchased before entering into a contract to sell and can be cancelled if you do not sell the house.
Australian Capital territory owner builder license
Becoming an ACT owner builder is one of the straight forward processes. You need to complete the Owner builder course and do Construction induction program and submit every necessary document including the Building approval. ACT does not force you with any insurance throughout the owner building process.
- The planned building work must fall under Class 1, 2 or 10a building classification of the Australian building code.
- You must hold and owner builder course certificate or complete and owner builder examination recognized by the construction occupations registrar which is not older than 5 years. Or the applicant holds a Class A, B or C Builder License or an interstate equivalent.
- Must own or lease the land where the construction is intended to happen.
- Building Approval (similar to DA) from a private certifier.
- Do training for construction induction card (white card).
- Complete asbestos awareness training.
- Proof of identity of the applicant.
- Proof of ownership or lease.
- Building Approval certificate copy.
- Certificate copy of Owner builder course ACT.
- Copy of Safework White Card and
- Copy of Asbestos awareness training if required.
Class 1 & 2 – $245 (online), $263 (Via post or in person)
Class 10a – $183 (online), $192 (Via post or in person)
An ACT owner builder is not deemed to carry out specialist building work like swimming pool and demolition.
Only one owner builder license is allowed for a person in a 5-year period.
Owner builders do not require residential building insurance (owner builder home warranty insurance) but require other insurance like workers’ compensation insurance.
Public liability insurance is not a must but recommended.
Queensland Owner Builder License
The sunny state of Australia allows for the construction of a farm building up to a worth of $27,500 as a QLD owner builder. That is the highest value commercial building that you can build with an Owner builder license in the whole of Australia. Applying for an owner builder permit in QLD, you need not require a White Card. Instead, you have to take up Asbestos awareness course along with the usual Owner builder course.
Projects coming under Schedule 7 of the Planning regulation act of 2017 do not require owner builder permit in Queensland.
- Estimated construction value (labour + material) of $11,000 or above.
- Completion of QLD owner builder course.
- Completion of asbestos awareness course from a registered trainer if the intended work involves asbestos or if the intended home to renovate is built before 1990.
- Farm buildings are permitted if the value is less than $27,500 and the owner can personally do that work. (otherwise commercial buildings including farm buildings are not permitted under owner building)
- Proof of identity
- Proof of ownership-
- If you are the owner, original or copy of Title search or Registration Confirmation Statement submitted or directly mailed from Titles office that is not older than 30 days.
- If you are a lease occupier, land owner’s detail, proof of land ownership (not older than 30 days), lease agreement and a letter of consent from the owner.
- In case of the land owned by a company, proof of company directors from an ASIC Historical Company Extract Provider. All company directors need to be included in the application form.
- Proof of completed owner builder license course or exemption approval if any.
- Certificate of completion of the asbestos awareness program, if required.
- Details of previous owner builder permit, if any.
- A person with an Owner builder license in QLD is exempted of the Qleave levy (0.475% of the total cost of work) that you need to pay otherwise.
- Responsible for carrying out safe work practices (similar to work safe white card in other states)
- Display of signboard indicating that the site is built under an owner builder permit. The signboard must contain your Owner builder permit number in letters 50mm or high printed on a weatherproof material not less than half square metre so that it is clearly visible from the street.
- Disputes can be solved via Queensland’s official dispute resolution centre
- If any of the applicants listed in the application has got their owner builder permit cancelled by QBCC within the 3-year period preceding the application filing, you can’t get an owner builder permit in QLD.
- Only one Owner builder license is permitted in a period of 6 years unless until exceptions like severe illness or financial difficulty is reported.
- Work done under the owner builder permit in Queensland cannot be covered using Home warranty insurance which protects against incomplete or defective work.
- Fire construct work above $1,100 requires licensed professionals to do the work.
Tasmania Owner Builder License
Consumer, Building and Occupation Services board (CBOS) of Tasmania has got a lot of relaxations for their owner builder. So, before putting in your effort to apply for the owner builder permit in Tasmania make sure if it is really required.
Though having some of the best relaxations, CBOS has got a lot of procedures to be done at every stage if you happen to get the owner builder license.
Construction work that does not require owner builder consent in Tasmania:
- Building farm sheds under 200 m2 (class 7b)
- Perform repair or maintenance work using similar materials as present ones.
- Shed, garage or carport up to 18m2, or up to 36m2 if prefabricated.
- Porch or veranda up to 9m2
- Deck up to 1m high
- Temporary swimming pool up to 9m2 with a child safety fence
- Single person owned, contracted to be bought and joint ownership properties are only eligible for owner building in Tasmania. (company and trust owned properties are not allowed)
- Intend to live in the space after the construction is completed.
- The building work comes under class 1a, 8, 10a or 10b.
- Completion of Tasmanian owner builder responsibility course except for class 1a buildings.
- Completion of construction induction card course. (safework white card)
- Must have engaged a licensed building surveyor regarding the work to be performed.
- Certified building plans from a licensed building surveyor.
- Certificate of title with every person in it completing the application.
- Proof of completion of owner builder responsibilities courses, if required, not less than a year old.
- Copy of construction induction white card.
- Public construction liability insurance not lesser than 5 million dollars.
Owner builder permit fee – Class 1a $388.80
Owner builder permit fee – Class 10a, 10b and 8 $194.40
Replacement card fee $40.50
After approval of owner builder permit Tasmania
Once the letter of confirmation is issued with the Tasmania owner builder permit number, the building surveyor you have engaged will issue a Certificate of Likely compliance.
As an owner builder, you are required to forward the two certificates (owner builder certificate and certificate of likely compliance) along with the design documents of the construction to your local council to apply for building, plumbing and planning permit (as per your requirements).
Once the building permit is approved you need to submit ‘Start work’ notification and authorization form (form 39) to your building surveyor before starting work.
After construction work completion
Owner builder will send an application to the building surveyor for occupancy permit which will be issued after the surveyor assesses the works completed. A copy of the occupancy permit is to be sent to the local council.
- Unlike other states, you are allowed two 1a owner building projects in 10 years.
- Companies, trusts cannot apply for an Owner Builder license in Tasmania.
Single insurance that covers personal and property damage caused by the work done by the owner builder. It also includes construction liability cover for workers and the public valued 5 million or above. The owner builder public construction liability insurance is to be purchased before the commencement of work and should be valid till the issue of the certificate of completion.
Western Australia Owner Builder License
If you are looking out for upgrading your residence in Western Australia, you are luckiest. WA is the only state that allows construction and renovation on a commercial building to an extent under an owner builder permit. Other than that, the procedure to become an owner builder in WA is usual.
Types of building work permitted under Owner builder license WA
- Renovate or extend an existing single dwelling.
- Construct a detached dwelling (including a granny flat).
- Build a non-habitable building or ancillaries to a dwelling (private garage, carport, shed, etc).
- Construct, extend or alterations to small commercial building restricted to two-storey, floor space of 500 m2 that is not a detached house, class 10 building or farm building.
- You must either be the owner of the land, in a contract to buy or be a lease occupier with written consent to proceed with construction work.
- Intend to occupy once the building work is completed.
- Estimated building value (labour + material) of $20,000 or above.
- Complete owner builder course.
- You are not granted owner builder permit in WA in the past 6 years. (Special cases: if the owner builder application was previously refused/cancelled (or) if you are applying for owner building the same building that you were granted permission in the last 6 years)
- Proof of identity
- Proof of ownership – certificate of title, contract to buy or lease agreement with written consent from the landowner.
- Owner builder course WA completion certificate (not required if you are a building practitioner).
- Site plan document that shows site detail, floor and elevation plans.
residential building $174.00
Industrial/commercial building $467.00
After approval of owner builder permit WA
You have to apply for building permit from your local building authority once the Owner builder permit WA is issued. The owner builder approval will expire, if you fail to get a building permit within 6 months or the building permit is rejected.
A signboard of reasonable size that is readable from outside the site that contains your name, telephone number and owner builder approval number.
- Only one owner builder license for a person in six-year unless special conditions are met. (approval denied during the last attempt or applying for the same land as the last time.)
- Owner-builder approvals can only be issued to individuals and not to companies or trusts.
- Sale of the owner-built house within 7 years from the issue of owner builder permit requires home indemnity insurance.
Provide home indemnity insurance to the purchaser if selling the house within 7 years of issuing builder permit under owner builder. As a seller, you are liable for the faults caused by owner building even after the sale. (not required for “associated work” like pergola, fence or swimming pool)
South Australia Owner Builder License
The procedure to become an owner builder in South Australia is quite different compared to other states. The good news is you don’t need to take an owner builder course or attend construction induction program.
Instead, you need to go through the same licensing process as building practitioners. Equipping yourself as a licensed builder is a lot of work and you end up taking a course even if it isn’t a necessity. This is why South Australia has the lowest owner builders of all Australian states.
Note: There is not enough information on the process to acquire a south Australian owner builder license. All we have got is the owner builder responsibilities handbook.
Same requirements as licensed builders (as in development act of 1993 and Development regulation of 2008)
- Obtain development approval.
- Home Indemnity insurance, if the estimated value is over 12,000.
- Notify adjoining property owners of the intended construction work that may affect them.
- Notify local council at various stage of work.
- Pay Construction Industry Training Levy of 0.25%, if the estimated value exceeds 15,000.
- Sign contracts for buildings cost over 12,000.
- Engage a registered building supervisor or private certifier to oversee the building process right from the start to completion.
Having to get through the complex process of getting your permit is itself a limitation when it comes to becoming an owner builder in SA. Though you will save money here and there as an owner builder, make sure you are capable of clearing the assessment before you start.
Sub-contractors need to have Indemnity insurance for all domestic work valued over $12,000 to cover non-completion, failure to rectify faults and or contractor dies, disappears or declared bankrupt. If you have finalized on contractors the insurance documents must be submitted for assessment when lodging the owner builder application, if not the insurance must be submitted to the council before the start of particular contractor’s work.
Northern Territory Owner Builder License
Becoming an Owner Builder in NT is a fairly easy process. You do not need to attend an owner builder course or get a Worksafe white card. You just need to go through the Northern Territory owner builder manual and declare it completed in the application along with the usual documents for proof of land ownership.
Building types permitted under owner builder license
- Class 1a – Single dwelling or detached house
- Class 10 – Ancillary to 1a, attached to and built at the same time (garage, carport or shed)
- A retaining wall that is unattached to class 1a or 2 building.
- Extensions of any of the above.
- Building type 1a, 10, an extension of it or a retaining wall.
- Construction value over $12,000 (material + labour)
- Only individual property owners are eligible – no company or trust.
- Compliance with building control certification
- Residential building insurance before the start of work
- Declare you have read the Northern territory owner builder manual
Note: You do not need the owner builder permit if you are registered as a building contractor.
- All individuals’ names on the property title must be included on the application.
- Complete and sign declaration that comes with Northern Territory owner builder manual.
- Search title for property not older than 28 days.
Usually takes around 6 weeks to get the owner builder certificate in NT.
The obtained Owner builder permit needs to be submitted to a registered building certifier to apply for building permit.
Legally-binding declaration within 14 days of completion of construction. Send a copy to building certifier to enable the issue of occupancy permit.
- Only one owner builder certificate every 6 years.
- Valid for 3 years. Can be renewed for another 3 years.
- You need to rectify defective work for up to 6 years if you sell the property.
Residential building insurance in the form of Fidelity certificate is required when applying for building permit. The same covers future owners of the building for the period of 6 years (if the owner builder happens to sell the home within 6 years from building permit approval).
Owner building is not a difficult process for anyone willing to save money. You just need to prepare yourself with appropriate courses and be available with plenty of time to make sure the renovation or construction process you intend to do is done properly.
Ideally, it is for those willing to inhabit the property after construction. If you are planning to sell anytime soon, owner building is not worth the time and extra money that you need to pay in the form of indemnity insurance before selling.
You can use this government search portal to find any documents, forms, regulations in Australia.
If you have any doubts regarding the owner builder permit or want a complete training throughout the process, check out my one-to-one live training sessions.