Each state Government has their own regulations surrounding granny flats. Yet, each local Council may have the authority to overrule those requirements. Which can make it quite confusing when planning to build a granny flat. So, here is a list of the general rules for Granny Flats across Australia:
- Your local Council or private certifier will issue you with your Construction Certificate (building permit) before you can begin building.
- Your local Council has the authority to impose strict regulations on you, or even request you remove the granny flat.
- Extra car parking spaces are not always needed at your granny flat.
- You do need to provide Principal Private Open Space for occupants, in the form a patio and landscaped area.
- Setbacks are also required – The granny flat must be 0.9m from side fences and 3m from the back fence.
- Garages are not counted as part of your floor-space, so can be an addition.
Other things a granny flat generally includes are bedroom/s, a kitchen/kitchenette, a living area, and a bathroom. Basically, a granny flat is a self-contained unit, made to feel homely.
Today, I will talk about whether a granny flat needs planning permission and discuss what council expects of you.
DON'T PAY A FORTUNE FOR YOUR GRANNY FLAT. Find out how to deal with council and build a granny flat for the lowest cost possible. Learn More.
I will discuss what to do if you have an unapproved granny flat on your property. I will talk about the granny flat access requirements, privacy requirements, and the requirements for granny flats with a garage.
With all this to cover, lets get into it.
Does a Granny Flat Need Planning Permission?
Yes – a permit is a legal document that gives you permission for development.
Let’s establish the difference between the permits:
- Development Approval (DA)
- Complying Development (CDC)
- Construction Certificate (CC)
They are all permits for building your granny flat but controlled by different laws and regulations.
DA – You submit an application for approval.
Your local Council assesses the application based on the:
- Information provided
- Community standards
- Planning and development legislation
- Council requirements.
If you are approved, they will issue you with your Construction Certificate, and building can begin.
CDC – Your proposed development is assessed against your State’s regulations, rather than your Councils’.
the CDC is issued by a private certifier instead of your local Council.
If your development qualifies, you will be issued with a Complying Development Certificate (your Construction Certificate). Ideally this is the path most property owners want to go down.
There is less approval time and generally costs less in fees than a full DA which will otherwise need to be issued.
So to summarise; you will need either:
- Development Approval or
- A Complying Development Certificate
Before a building permit (also known as a Construction Certificate) can be issued. It is either one or the other, depending on your circumstance.
After a building is complete (and you pass all inspections) you will be issued with a occupation certificate
- Proposed development complies with your DA or CDC
- Building is structurally safe.
You will also need to get the final ‘sign-off’ from a building surveyor once finished building.
They will issue you with an Occupation Certificate, showing the building is suitable for occupation.
What to Do if You Have an Unapproved Granny Flat on Your Property
This is a bit of a legal battlefield. I suggest you seek advice from a building surveyor. It appears to differ regarding on what you intend on doing with the property.
As, in some cases Council does not notice until the property is being sold, then you could be in some trouble.
Depending on your local Council, they may:
- Impose family members only as occupants
- Enforce connection to the main homes’ sewer and power lines, in accordance with current regulations
- Request demolition of the unauthorised structure
Another area of concern is insurance. Your insurer would have reason not to honour the policy if, for example:
- Your property was damaged by a fire that started from the unapproved addition
- A structural mishap injured a visitor
This could create many more issues than if you took time to seek approval.
Granny Flat Access Requirements
Additional parking access is not necessarily required for a granny flat, if the main home has off-street parking. Generally, a corner block is considered to have better access to both dwellings.
Other lots usually tend to have adequate parking space at the front setback area. However, your Council may specifically request additional parking – at most, one car space.
Granny Flat Privacy & Landscaping Requirements
A granny flat is most often built in the backyard, behind the main home. Setbacks that apply are the granny flat must be 3m from the back fence and 0.9m from each side fence.
You must also provide Principal Private Open Space for your tenants:
- A patio directly accessible from the living area, typically at least 24sqm.
- Landscaped area, dependant on the size of your block;
- 450-600sqm = 20%
- 600-900sqm = 25%
- 900-1500sqm = 35%
- 1500sqm or more = 45%
*Please note that 50% of the landscaping areas must be behind your main home.
For ideas on creating sufficient privacy around setbacks, I have gathered ideas about seperation and privacy here.
Granny Flat with Garage Requirements
Garages generally aren’t included in your liveable floor space. So, with approval from your Council, you can build them in addition to your allowable floor area without losing any room.
The great news about this is that designing granny flats with garages doesn’t mean you have to reduce the footprint of the living space. You won’t loose out on valuable living space to spare room for a car.
Consequences for Breaking Granny Flat Rules
There are various consequences you can suffer if you break the regulations for granny flats.
- You may lose money if you sell the property
One of the reasons you built a granny flat was to add value to your property. Keep in mind any money made on a sale may be minor.
A sale of the property attracts capital gains tax if it is not your primary place of residence. If the granny flat has not increased the value of the property, you’ve lost out.
- Your neighbours may object
If you go through the proper approval process, your adjacent neighbours are given the chance to:
Submit a written representation against your development before the granny flat is built.
So, if your neighbours are not given this chance before building begins, and they feel your development impacts them you may face opposition after it is built.
- Your local Council may request you remove the granny flat
Council has the authority to make you pull down your building if they find out is has been illegally built.
Is a Granny Flat a Separate Dwelling?
No – there is a significant legal difference between a granny flat and a separate dwelling. A granny flat must be built in conjunction with the main dwelling, as part of the same title.
However, you may be able to find a way through this legal loophole by:
- Splitting your Torrens title
- Then building on the new empty lot if your land is big enough and zoning for your area permits this
- Later sub-dividing your land. (Again, only if your land is big enough)
For more information, find out more about a Granny Flat vs a Subdivision.
What Needs to be Included in a Granny Flat?
A granny flat generally is a self-contained unit, a smaller version of the main home. It should be made to suit your style and budget.
So, whatever makes it feel like home for you whilst abiding by your Councils’ regulations should be included. Generally speaking, this includes one bedroom, a kitchen or kitchenette, a living area and a bathroom.
If possible, a separate street-front entrance is appreciated, for the safety and privacy of both dwellings. The intended use of the flat should also play a role in its’ design.
For example, if you are making it for an elderly member of family, consider:
- Access for wheelchairs in every doorway
- Level floors in every room.
Before you can begin building your granny flat, you need to gain approval, either in the form of:
- Development Approval (DA) or
- Complying Development (CDC)
You will then be issued your Construction Certificate (building permit) so you can begin building.
A building permit ensures your proposed development is:
- Compliant with your DA or CDC, so the granny flat is structurally safe.
After building has finished, the final tick of approval comes from a building surveyor who will issue you with an Occupation Certificate.
If you do not go through the approval process, you have reached a legal war.
If your Council finds out about your unauthorised structure, they have the authority to:
- Impose strict regulations on you, such as family only occupants or
- Connection to the main homes sewer and power lines.
At worst, they may request you demolish the granny flat.
So, it is best you seek approval.
General regulations are:
- Extra car parking spaces are not always needed, but your Council may specifically request you provide one.
- You must provide Principal Private Open Space for your tenants (a patio and landscaped area)
- Setbacks are 0.9m from side fences and 3m from the back fence
- Garages are classified as non-habitable space, so can be an added without losing any of your allowed floor-space.
When designing a granny flat, it should suit your style and budget. Make it feel homely, after all it is a smaller version of your main home.
*Please note – All information provided in this article is general. For the rules specific to your area, contact your local Council.