We’ve got all the information you need to make your project run more smoothly. Find statutory application forms, get an overview of our fees and browse our tips and frequently asked questions. Or you can see what’s caught our attention in the construction industry more broadly.

All information is of a general nature only, so please contact us for advice specific to your project.

Find answers to common questions relating to building and assessment.

Visitor accommodation is taking off around Tasmania, so it should be easy to clear out the garage, fit it out with a bathroom, kitchenette and dining table, and sit back and wait for the bookings, right? Unfortunately, it is rarely that straightforward.

First, you will most likely need planning permission from the council, as more visitors will require more parking and could impact the amenity and visual impact of your neighbourhood.

You will also need building approval, meaning the building is deemed safe and suitable for occupation. If your backyard building is a granny flat or similar, then it may already have approval as a habitable building and can be used as accommodation. Your existing occupancy permit, or the Certificate of Completion issued by your council, will tell you the building’s approved use.

But if the building is approved a garage or shed, it is considered non-habitable and can’t be used for accommodation without a “change of use”. This means it will need to have the range of features required by an ancillary dwelling – usually energy efficiency measures, sufficient weatherproofing and waterproofing, and smoke alarms, as well as bushfire design features if you’re in a bushfire-prone area.

An ancillary dwelling is considered to be part of the main dwelling (e.g. a separate bedroom or bathroom). If you want your backyard building to operate as an independent building, it will need to have all the building features and amenities required for a Class 1a dwelling.

Further information can be found in the Director’s Determination – Short or Medium Term Visitor Accommodation.

We issue a Certificate of Likely Compliance for Notifiable and Permit building work. This requires assessment of your design documentation against all relevant building legislation, and confirms that your development is likely to be safe and suitable for its intended use.

Normally, CLC assessments take around 2 weeks, but delays occur when we have not received all the required documents, or the documentation does not have sufficient detail.

The minimum documentation we need for a CLC:

Depending on the project we may also require additional documentation:

  • structural engineering documents and Form 35 or Form 55 (see here for statutory forms)
  • geotechnical assessment and Form 55
  • Onsite wastewater treatment system report and Form 55
  • Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) assessment report and Form 55
  • Energy efficiency assessment and Form 55
  • Heritage approval or exemption
  • TasWater Certificate of Certifiable Works (see here for further information)
  • agent authorisation from the owner

Required documents are listed in the Director’s Specified List and your building designer should be able to assist in providing the right documents, but don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

The Building Act 2016 divides building work among four categories, according to risk.

Low risk work

Low risk work (Category 1) can be conducted by the owner, without a licence, plans or approvals, and the owner is responsible for compliance with the building legislation.

Low risk work includes:

  • sheds and garages under specified sizes
  • decks under 1 m height
  • animal shelters and cubby houses under 18 m2 in area
  • fences under specified heights
  • retaining walls under specified heights

Builder’s work (Category 2) is also Low Risk work but the licensed builder is responsible for compliance with the building legislation. The scope of work is greater than that for owners, but any structural work pushes it into a higher risk category requiring assessment and approval.

You don’t need drawings or a Certificate of Likely Compliance for low risk work, but you will need to pay any applicable fees and notify your council on completion.

Notifiable and Permit work

These are larger, more complex projects that carry more risk. Both types of projects require drawings prepared by a licensed designer or architect, a Certificate of Likely Compliance from a building surveyor (who is responsible for compliance with the legislation), and any applicable council and state building fees to be paid.

Notifiable work does not require a Building Permit, rather, the council is notified of the work. More information can be found here.

Our role is statutory. We act on behalf of the Tasmanian Government to ensure the design and construction of a building complies with all relevant building legislation and will be safe and fit for purpose. We do this by assessing the design documentation for compliance (confirmed by the issue of a Certificate of Likely Compliance), and inspecting the building work during construction.

There are quite specific rules around what a building surveyor can and can’t do. We can only be engaged by the owner, but not if another building surveyor is already engaged on a project. And we can only resign from a project by mutual agreement with the owner, or with permission from the Director of Building Control.

Services not provided by Holdfast

Pre-purchase building inspections – these are often requested for impending house sales, but are not a service we provide.

Planning – we check that the building documentation generally aligns with the planning documentation, but cannot provide advice on whether planning permission might be required.

Plumbing – this is the responsibility of your local council and TasWater, so you will need to check with them whether your project requires a plumbing permit or a Certificate of Certifiable Works.

Designing your project – as the statutory building surveyor, providing design input compromises our impartiality. We independently assess building design against the legislation but do not provide design services. However, we can advise on compliance during design development and for projects where we are not the statutory building surveyor.

Project management – this is generally provided by your designer for the entire project, or up to the approval stage and then by your builder during construction. Or you can do it yourself if it is an owner builder project.

Building work is anything that involves constructing, erecting, altering, adding to, or repairing a building, and includes any work relating to the preparation of the site.

Demolition and removal are also considered building work and require the same type of approvals and permits.

In Tasmania, the builder, the owner and the person named on the building permit (if a permit is required) are responsible for ensuring building work is compliant with the National Construction Code and the Building Act 2016. As building surveyors, we provide advice and assessment for likely compliance with the legislation.

Planning is a balancing act between the use and development of resources with regard to community expectations and environmental sustainability. It relates to the local amenity, visual impact, and population density associated with a development.

For all our statutory projects we need to be advised by the owner or the designer if planning is exempt, permitted or discretionary. The planning status can be obtained from your local council (the Permit Authority).

Getting started early

Planning applications can take a long time to process, especially if discretionary planning is required, but can often work in parallel with the design development and approval process, so we strongly recommend that planning is the first application you get under way for your project.

If you are building a shed or garage as an owner builder you can prepare your own site plan. While this sounds like fun, keep in mind that it still needs to be assessed against all relevant building legislation and must include the same information that a professional designer would include.

Key information that should be on a site plan is listed in Schedule 1 of the Director’s Specified List and includes:

  • project identifying information (name, address, land title reference number etc.)
  • title boundaries and any drains and easements on the property
  • accurate location and dimensions of the building on the site, with distances from boundaries presented
  • accurate location and dimensions of buildings on adjoining properties if within 3 m of the boundary
  • a north arrow (sounds obvious, but is often missed and is actually really important).
  • design wind speed.
  • designated bushfire-prone area BAL rating (Bushfire Attack Level).
  • surface and sub-surface site drainage.

You can only do your own site plan for Class 10 structures – site plans for dwellings and other projects must be prepared by a licensed designer. Contact us for more information.

Building classification indicates how the building is used and the likely profile of people using it. This has important implications for the safety features present within a building so is a key item of information in any assessment and one of the first things the building surveyor considers.

Building classes are defined in the National Construction Code and are summarised here:

Class 1a – detached dwellings.

Class 1b – an accommodation building for no more than 12 people and no more than 300 m2, e.g. a guest house.

Class 2 – a building containing 2 or more sole-occupancy units or flats.

Class 3 – a residential building for long- or short-term accommodation for unrelated people, e.g. boarding school, hotel, backpackers, detention centre, nurse’s quarters etc.

Class 4 – a dwelling in a building that is Class 5-9 if it is the only dwelling, e.g. a flat above a shop.

Class 5 – an office building – does not include offices associated with Class 6-9 buildings.

Class 6 – a building for the sale of goods or services, e.g. shop, cafe, kiosk, laundromat, service station, hairdresser etc.

Class 7a – a carpark

Class 7b – for storage, display or wholesale sale of goods, e.g. a farm barn, archive etc.

Class 8 – a laboratory, workshop, manufacturing, repair etc. premises.

Class 9a – a health-care building.

Class 9b – a public assembly building, e.g. church, school, university, theatre etc.

Class 9c – an aged care building.

Class 10a – a non-habitable building, e.g. a shed or garage.

Class 10b – a structure, e.g. a fence, retaining wall, mast or swimming pool.

Class 10c – a private bushfire shelter.

Plumbing now comes under the Building Act 2016, but you don’t always need a plumbing permit. Like building work, plumbing is now also split into four categories depending on their level of risk (see the Director’s Determination on Categories of Plumbing Work). Owners can conduct Category 1 work, licensed plumbers conduct Category 2 work, and notifiable and permit work require design drawings and assessment for a Certificate of Likely Compliance – Plumbing Work.

Your local council is the Permit Authority for plumbing and should be able to advise on whether a plumbing permit is required for your project.

Regardless of whether you are conducting building or plumbing work, any work that will affect TasWater infrastructure or operations, modify drinking water demand or sewage removal, or requires a new connection to TasWater infrastructure, will require a Certifiable Works Certificate from TasWater. More detail can be found in TasWater’s guidelines for certifiable works.

At occupancy, the building surveyor inspects the building work and reviews documentation from the builder to confirm the build has been conducted according to minimum construction standards and the approved plans. Getting these documents to us can take some time and is usually what delays the issue of an Occupancy Permit.

These documents must be reviewed by the building surveyor as they represent evidence of compliant installation of building features elements. Documents requested can include certificates or statements for:

  • waterproofing wet areas
  • truss layout
  • glazing assembly and installation
  • external cladding
  • electrical wiring and lighting
  • commissioning of fire detection and alarm systems.

And some statutory forms are also required for an Occupancy Permit:

Construction documentation varies among projects but will be listed on your Certificate of Likely Compliance. Getting these certificates and statements sorted and delivered to us at the time of our occupancy inspection will assist in us issuing our Occupancy Permit much sooner.

Contact us for more information.