building & Occupancy Permits for COMMERCIAL Fitouts

Building approval requirements are not affected by planning exemptions. You will be required to apply for the necessary building and occupancy permits for all commercial buildings and tenencies.

Building permits for Fit Outs

  • Building permit requirements for fit out work apply to both new and existing commercial buildings.
  • The building permit sets out the approved use of the building and its classification under the Building Code of Australia (Building Code).
  • Refer to the examples in the ‘Does fit out work require a Building Permit?’

Does fit out work require a Building Permit?

  • Fit out work for existing or new buildings will require a building permit unless specifically exempted under the Act or the Regulations.
  • Where the fit out work for a new building is not included in the plans and specifications for the base build (and therefore not covered by the building permit issued for this work), a separate building permit may be required at the time the fit out work is to be carried out.
  • Where a simple fit out is proposed and only movable furniture is being replaced or painting and decorating is being carried out, a building permit will generally not be required.
  • The main exemptions that may apply to fit out work in a building being renovated, altered or improved are listed in item 2 of clause 2 in Schedule 4 of the Regulations.
  • The permit authority may prosecute any builder who carries out unauthorised building work (such as building without a building permit when one was required).
  • It is recommended that the permit authority be consulted if there is any doubt about whether a building permit is required.

A Building Permit will be required, where;

The Fit out work will:

  • Alter any of the buildings structure.
  • Propose new and fixed construction. (not including moveable furniture)
    • e.g. converting a retail shop to a resturant will require a building permit in 99% of cases.
  • Changes paths of travel.
  • Results in an increase of patrons or occupants.
  • Building work changes the classification of the building.
  • Building work changes the use of the building. (this is not the same as the planning change of use)
    • e.g. Tattoo shop to Barber Shop is a change of use. (under building legislation)

Does fit out work need to be carried out by a registered builder?

  • Registration as a building contractor is required when carrying out ‘builder work’. Regulation 13 of the Building Services (Registration) Regulations 2011 defines ‘builder work’.
  • While some fit out work may not require a fit out contractor to be a registered building contractor, there may still be a requirement to obtain a building permit.
  • For example, although the value of the fit out work is under $20,000, the work may affect the way in which the building complies with each applicable building standard, so a building permit would be required.

General Occupancy Permit Information

  • The Building Act 2011 (the Act) requires owners and occupiers of all buildings except single dwellings, sheds and pools etc (Class 1 and 10) to obtain and comply with occupancy permits.
  • Part 4 of the Act sets out the requirements for occupancy permits in different circumstances.
  • Part 5 of the Act makes clear the circumstances in which occupancy permits are not required.
  • This infomation deals with requirements for occupancy permits following renovations, fitout or other minor building work to existing buildings.
  • An occupancy permit relates to the building, and not to the owner or occupier, so a subsequent tenant may do renovation, fitout or minor work that does not involve a change of authorised use or classification without obtaining a new occupancy permit.

Status of Existing Buildings

  • It is an offence under section 41 of the Act to occupy a building unless an occupancy permit is in place, or the building is exempt from such a requirement by one of the avenues provided for in Part 5 of the Act. The occupancy permit sets out the approved use of the building and its classification under the National Construction Code.
  • Most buildings completed before 2 April 2012 were issued with a certificate of classification, which is taken to be an occupancy permit by operation of section 181 of the Act.
  • Does the building have a current Certificate of Classification?  If not, the building will require a vaild Occupancy permit to be used for its intended purpose. 
  • Most existing commercial or multi-residential buildings are required to have occupancy permits.
  • If a completed building is subject to an occupancy permit requirement, owners or occupiers by reason of section 41(2), are not permitted to use or occupy such building unless a valid occupancy permit has been issued.
  • Owners or occupiers who are not sure of the status of a building, or who wish to update the approval status of a building, can apply for a new occupancy permit for a building with existing authorisation under section 52 of the Act.

Effect of Renovations, Fitout or Minor Building Work

  • If there is an occupancy permit or deemed occupancy permit in effect for a building, it is an offence under section 43 of the Act to occupy or use such building in a way that is different from the use authorised or classification set out in the permit.
  • Renovations, fitout or minor building work to a building completed after 2 April 2012 that do not involve a change of authorised use or classification are not subject to a new occupancy permit requirement.
  • Renovations, fitout or minor building work to a building completed before 2 April 2012 that do not involve a change of classification are not subject to a new occupancy permit requirement.
  • However, notwithstanding that renovation, fitout or minor building work may not generate a requirement to obtain a new occupancy permit, such proposals may still be subject to a requirement to obtain a building permit under section 9 or a demolition permit under section 10 of the Act

Occupancy Permits for Parts of Buildings

  • The Act allows owners or occupiers to choose whether to have one occupancy permit that covers the whole building, or multiple occupancy permits, each of which deals with one part of the building. Simple buildings with a single use are not likely to benefit from more than one occupancy permit. Complex buildings with multiple tenancies or multiple uses may have individual occupancy permits for each distinct area.
  • Where renovation, fitout or minor building work involve a change of authorised use or classification to part of a building the owner or occupier may choose to obtain a new occupancy permit for the part of the building that has changed, rather than for the whole building.

Fitout Work to New Buildings (in addition to the building shell)

  • Buildings that are designed for multiple tenancies or multiple uses may be completed to “shell” stage by the building owner, with each tenant responsible for the fitout of each tenancy.
  • A bare building may not meet all the requirements of the National Construction Code, and fitout work may be needed to ensure compliance with all standards.
  • In this case the building shell is considered as a stage in completing the whole works, with the fitout work considered as further stages leading to a completed building.
  • The building owner may choose to wait until all fitout work is completed before obtaining an occupancy permit that covers the whole building.
  • Owners or occupants may wish to obtain temporary occupancy permits under section 47 of the Act to allow occupation of part of a building before the whole building is completed.
  • Alternatively the building owner may obtain an occupancy permit for the public or common-use parts of the building and leave it to each tenant to obtain an occupancy permit for each tenancy.
  • An occupancy permit relates to the building, and not to the owner or occupier, so a subsequent tenant may do renovation, fitout or minor work that does not involve a change of authorised use or classification without obtaining a new occupancy permit.