The information provided below is general in nature and should not be relied upon legal advice. You should call 03 5445 1000 and speak to a lawyer at OFRM about your particular circumstances.

To permit or not to permit? That is the risk

When acting for a client in the sale of a property, the Vendor’s statement must disclose any building permits issued in the last 7 years of ownership. Often a client will be able to provide all of the required permits and inspections but in some cases there are issues with clients who have not obtained permits for works that have been done, or for a client wishing to purchase a property that the current owner didn’t obtain a permit for works done. The classic case is when a client erects a pergola and fails to obtain a permit.

Failure to obtain a permit from the responsible authority can result in a fine or possibly an order being issued by the authority for the removal of the structure. This can cause delays with the settlement or possible the cancellation of the Contract of Sale by the buyer. When looking to enter into a sale contract, a prospective purchaser can request a copy of the permit at the time of the sale. The current owner often then needs to obtain a permit after the works are done, or obtain a compliance assessment from the responsible authority; usually the local council. This would generally result in a delay with obtaining a signed Contract of Sale from a buyer, having to arrange a number of inspections, the likelihood of a fine and then a fee to have the permit done.

If in doubt about whether a permit is needed, bearing in mind you will want to sell your house one day, I suggest to err on the side of caution and obtain advice from the responsible authority or somewhere like the master builders association. Often it is significantly cheaper to obtain the permit prior to commencement of any building works and ensure you don’t need to pull down your beloved pergola.