Certification of Building Works
What are ‘Certifying Authorities’?
Certifying authorities are responsible for the approval and inspection of building and subdivision works. They issue the certificates needed to build or to subdivide property e.g. Complying Development Certificates (planning and building approval for small developments in accordance with pre-set standards found in Statutory documents such as SEPP (Exempt & Complying Codes) 2008, Construction Certificates (for building approval), Subdivision Certificates (for the subdivision of land), Strata Certificates (for the subdivision of buildings) and Occupation Certificates (to permit the use of a building).
A Certifying Authority can be the local Council, the Minister for Planning or an Accredited Certifier (private practitioners accredited to act as public officials). Certifying Authorities are professionals in the field of technical standards and regulations applicable to buildings or subdivisions. Certifiers do not, however, supervise builders.
The definition of an Accredited Certifier as found within the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (as amended) is:-
‘Accredited Certifier, in relation to matters of a particular kind, means the holder of a certificate of accreditation as an accredited certifier under the Building Professionals Act 2005 in relation to those matters.’
When do I need a Certifying Authority?
Most building work requires the issue of the ‘development consent’ (through Council) followed by a Construction Certificate (Council or an Accredited Certifier) before building works commence and an Occupation Certificate (Council or an Accredited Certifier) prior to occupation or use of new building work.
Some building work only requires a Complying Development Certificate (CDC) (Council or an Accredited Certifier) and an Occupation Certificate (Council or an Accredited Certifier).
Minor building works may require no approval from Council and are known as Exempt Development. Subdivision work generally requires development consent (Council only), a Construction Certificate (Council or an Accredited Certifier) and a Subdivision Certificate (Councils and, in limited circumstances, Accredited Certifiers.
Check with Council or a Privately Accredited Certifier exactly what type of ‘approval or certification’ is required for the work you are planning to undertake.
For information on approvals for building and subdivision work, see ‘Certifying building and subdivision work’ (available at www.bpb.nsw.gov.au).
Principal Certifying Authority (PCA)
In many cases you will need to engage a particular type of Certifying Authority known as a Principal Certifying Authority (PCA). The PCA inspects building and subdivision work during the course of construction to ensure it meets with regulatory requirements. The specific roles and responsibilities of the PCA are set down in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
Only a PCA can issue the Occupation Certificate and / or Subdivision Certificate at the end of the work. In relation to building work, the PCA must assess whether the building complies with approvals and is suitable for occupation or use in accordance with its classification under the Building Code of Australia (BCA) before issuing an Occupation Certificate. In other words, the building generally complies with required building standards and is safe to occupy. The PCA can also issue Subdivision Certificates where council’s Local Environmental Plan (LEP) allows.
The PCA needs to be appointed before building or subdivision work starts. From their appointment, the PCA is responsible and has a duty of care in relation to any advice they give and action they take or omit to take at a construction site.
Who can be a PCA?
Accredited Certifiers and Councils can undertake the functions of a PCA for a development.
Only the person with the benefit of the development consent (usually the owner of the land) can appoint a PCA. There are limited circumstances where Accredited Certifiers are able to issue Subdivision Certificates. If you choose to obtain a Subdivision Certificate from an Accredited Certifier, it is important to check whether council’s LEP allows for Accredited Certifiers to issue these certificates. If using a private sector PCA, the applicant must advise council of the PCA’s name and accreditation number two days before work begins.
Help with the investigation of building complaints about a PCA?
If you or someone you know has concerns about the Certification of building works and the handling of building matters by a PCA then you/they can contact the Buildings Professional Board (BPB) on (02) 9895 5950 or via website at www.bpb.nsw.gov.au. This matter is also a concern for Council, so you may wish to notify Council of the matter. Council can contact the BPB on your behalf to identify a possible issue.
Searching for a Privately Accredited Certifier?
A list is available from the Buildings Professionals Board (BPB) at www.bpb.nsw.gov.au. This website has a section that allows you to search for your local Certifiers by suburb.
The contact information for the Buildings Professionals Board (BPB) is as follows:-
Level 3, Macquarie Tower
10 Valentine Avenue Parramatta NSW 2150
PO Box 3720 Parramatta NSW 2124
Tel: (02) 9895 5950
Fax: (02) 9895 5949