When building a granny flat, to comply with the regulations of Council, you will need many certificates.
The very last is an Occupation Certificate (OC), So what is an Occupation Certificate for a granny flat?
It is the final certificate issued for complete certification of your granny flat and is required before you can legally move in. It is also required so you can fully insure your granny flat as well.
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This Granny Flat Occupation Certificate (OC) article will cover the points below:
- What is an Occupation Certificate?
- Who has the rights to give you one?
- What steps must you pass in order to get a OC?
- What happens if you fail to get an OC?
- What fines and issues can you have living in a granny flat without an OC?
- Once you get one, can it be taken away from you (revoked)?
So, get ready to learn all about the importance of this Certificate for your secondary dwelling.
What Is an Occupation Certificate?
An Occupation Certificate (OC) is a document that is issued by your certifier, and must be done so prior to anyone living in your granny flat.
The OC confirms that;
- All the health and safety qualities of your granny flat have met those in the Building Codes of Australia, and
- The building is safe, and acceptable for occupation.
As such, it is the most crucial part to making your granny flat a building that is legally approved.
Once everything is checked off the OC is issued
After the SEPP was introduced, it is sad to say that many people forgot all about the OC. The pitfalls of this can be seen under the sub-headings, “What Happens if You Fail to Get an OC”, and “What Fines and Issues Can You Have Living in a Granny Flat Without an OC”.
So, it is important that you remember to attain your OC within 5 years after the date you get your granny flat gets approved through your Development Application (DA) or Complying Development(CDC).
Who Has the Rights to Give You One
As mentioned, the Occupation Certificate will be given to you by your certifier.
This can either be a private certifier or local Council, the pros and cons of each you can read about here.
If you choose to use a building company to build your granny flat, they may arrange each inspection with the certifier for you.
What Steps Must You Pass in Order to Get an OC
The steps you must take to get your OC are fairly straightforward, you just need to be prepared to do some in-depth research.
First, I suggest that you contact your local Council, and ask them about the regulations for your area. Important questions to ask are:
- What is is minimum property size required?
- What is the biggest sized secondary dwelling allowed?
- What setbacks are needed from boundaries, trees and the primary dwelling?
When speaking with Council, also ask for a copy of the Section 10.7 (once known as the Section 149) Certificate for your property. You will be able to see all the facts of how your land can be used on this one form, including if there are any restrictions on developments.
Now you have clued yourself up with all the information you need, you can start the approval procedure. You may be able to choose between applying for approval by one of two ways:
- Development Application (DA) – You will be required to provide Council with various bits of information, in order for them to assess your application. It is a more flexible application than CDC.
- Complying Development Certificate (CDC) – This is a streamlined process where your application is assessed against, and has to meet the regulations of the SEPP. It allows you to bypass Council, so is quicker and more simple.
This article may help you determine which approval pathway best suits you .
If you choose to apply for approval by Complying Development, you may find this Application Document Checklist by the NSW Government to be of use.
It may help to enlist the help of professionals while you make the plans for building your granny flat. Architects or drafts persons, surveyors, and engineers can all aid you in successfully obtaining consent from Council.
When you have arranged your plans, it is for you to time call in a certifier – again, either the local Council or an accredited private.
Now the certifier can give you either a:
- Construction Certificate (CC) – You will need this if you applied for approval through a DA, or
- Your Complying Development Certificate (CDC), which effectively issues your Construction Certificate.
A Construction Certificate is required before you can begin the development. Now that you have this, you can start building your granny flat.
The certifier will come back and inspect your granny flat four times while you are building it.
The four inspections are:
To give you your Occupation Certificate.
To gain approval, you must pass every one of these.
NOTE: To see all the steps require to build a granny flat, check out this article
Every inspection is to make sure that your granny flat is built structurally safe, to high-quality standards, as per either the DA or the CDC – that is, the plans that first got you approval. You see, the Council gave you approval, and so a Construction Certificate, based off these plans. You are not allowed to change them.
So, to put it simply, every time the certifier comes out for an inspection, they are checking to make sure that you are building all things:
- To the precise strength and specifications.
- As per the instructions that the engineer gave you.
- In the exact sequence.
Primarily, their focus is on safety. For example, making sure that an improperly constructed deck will not collapse.
So, when you have finished your granny flat, the certifiers last visit is important – they will again check you followed the plans that gained you approval at the start, ensuring your building is safe and legal. If they are happy with the way you have followed the plans and built your granny flat, they will give you the ultimate tick of approval – that is, hand you your OC.
Feel free to read up on what a certifier does and how you can find one as well.
What Happens if You Fail to Get an OC
If you fail to receive an Occupation Certificate, there can be serious complications as to the rights of the owner to occupy the granny flat. It is thought to be an offence to ‘occupy’ the building.
As, if you do not get this Certificate, you have not gained the proper approval for your granny flat, and so have not met all your legal requirements.
The pitfalls of this can be seen in the below sub-headings.
What Fines and Issues Can You Have Living in a Granny Flat Without an OC?
If you live in your granny flat, but have not gained approval in the form of an Occupation Certificate, this can cause you many problems.
Your Council has the right to:
- Charge you with being a fraud, as you behaved dishonestly, and so issue you with large fines.
- Command you to knock down the granny flat.
They will normally follow these steps:
- Issue you with a “Notice of Intention to Serve” – This lets you have 21 days to sort out the issue (i.e. apply for retrospective planning approval). This is an expensive process, one that can cost you up to three times the normal price, as you may have to carry out specific works to make your granny flat compliant. But if necessary, you can read up on some tips about how to fix an illegal granny flat.
- Issue you with a “Notice to Remedy” – If you did not follow the Intention to Serve within the timeframe you were given, the Council can now ask you to destruct your granny flat.
- Court – If you still do not obey these orders, Council can now take you to Court. Here, you can be given fine after fine, until the granny flat is knocked down.
Another issue that not getting an Occupation Certificate will cause you is the possibility of problems with insurance coverage if an incident were to take place in or because of the granny flat. For example, there is a known case where insurance did not cover both the primary dwelling and the granny flat, as a fire started in a granny flat that did not have approval.
Insurance companies will simply not payout any damage caused due to an “illegal granny flat”.
Once You Get One Can it Be Taken Away From You
Section 111.4 of the International Building Code (IBC) sets the guidelines as to when an Occupation Certificate can be revoked.
It states the only time the Occupation Certificate can be suspended/revoked is in writing, if:
- The information provided was wrong, or
Generally, this is when it is found that the building is being used for intentions other than those that were planned when it was approved to be occupied. If this change of use takes place, a new Occupation Certificate can be gained by modifications being made to the building.
All the steps must be done again – first, plans must be provided so they can be reviewed, and all inspections will be carried out along the way.
An Occupation Certificate is given to you after you pass four inspections performed by your certifier.
It is highly important you get this before anyone lives in your granny flat, as it says that:
- The health and safety standards of your granny flat are to the levels of the Building Codes of Australia, and
- Your building is safe enough to be occupied.
So, it is a piece of paper that makes your secondary dwelling a legally approved building.
Without this, you run the risk of Council charging you with being a fraud, issuing you with large fines, taking you to Court, and instructing you to demolish the granny flat.