Victoria has some of the strictest regulations on granny flats than anywhere else in the country. But I have some great news for you – there are works in process to try and make things easier. Currently though, it’s not impossible to build a granny flat, you just need to know the rules. So, here is a summary of rules for Granny Flats in VIC:
You must have a minimum property size of 450sqm. A granny flat may be referred to as either a secondary dwelling, or a Dependent Person’s Unit (DPU). It is for a person dependent on the person/s in the main home, such as a parent, grandparent or teenage child. Some local Councils insist on it being a movable building, others require for it to be easily removable. This is so the granny flat can be removed as soon as the dependent stops living there.
Today, I will cover how you can build a granny flat on your Victorian property.
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.
Going over these rules now will save you a headache later on
I will discuss the costs to build a granny flat. And cover transportable building regulations including your “granny flat” options. Lastly, I will provide you with a list of recommended granny flat builders in and around Melbourne, and what has been discovered from the Victorian Government’s Rules Reform program.
Can You Build a Granny Flat on Your VIC Property?
Potentially yes, potentially no, I’ll cover this in depth below.
Firstly, you must have a minimum block size of 450sqm.
Permits follow the guidelines in both the Building Act 1993 (the Act) and the Building Regulations 2018 (the Regulations).
You will need to find out whether your building project needs a planning permit, a building permit, or both.
These permits are necessary by law, as they are designed to protect you.
Due to the Building Regulations 2018, you may not need a planning permit if your granny flat meets certain criteria;
- Your granny flat must be a Dependant Person’s Unit (DPU)
A DPU is a secondary dwelling on your land for a person dependent on the person/s in the main home:
- Such as a parent, grandparent, or teenage child
- There must be only one person allowed to reside in the unit at any one time.
- A DPU must be self-contained, meaning it must have:
- A kitchen, living area, bathroom and toilet
- They usually share their sewerage and water services with the primary dwelling.
- Your granny flat is movable – This is classified as being constructed from non-permanent materials (i.e. no masonry).
The reasoning – so it can be easily removed immediately after the dependent person ceases to live there.
All of your local Council rules must be taken into account.
Usually, depending on your local Council, the person occupying the DPU has to be named before building starts.
Rules vary between councils. It’s best to check with your local council about:
- Building codes.
- What permits are required, and the application process.
This information is available on your local Council’s website.
Or, you can:
- Visit their office.
- Make a call, and
- Ask to speak to both the planning and building departments.
Each department will give you the exact regulations that are specific to your local Council. It is best to obtain something in writing from them before planning your DPU.
You will also need to check your certificate of title, ensuring there are no restrictions or provisions on your property.
Getting advice is free.
Handy sites you can visit for more information are:
Costs to Build a Granny Flat in Victoria
DPU’s differ from standard granny flats in various, money-saving ways:
- They generally source their utilities from the main house, not a separate supply point.
- They can’t be built with permanent materials (i.e. masonry).
- There is no need to provide separate driveway access, car parking or landscaping.
As a result, they can end up costing less than granny flats in other states.
The average price for a DPU is $100,000 – $150,000.
This price also typically includes what your standard granny flat doesn’t:
- An intercom or communication system so the dependent can stay in touch.
The catch is that the DPU is meant to be removed when the dependent no longer lives there. However, many Councils confess that they do be impose or monitor removal, so they are almost never removed.
A written contract is vital in Victoria when building a DPU. So first, your builder should perform a soil report.
They will need to gather foundation data from the soil report to give you the most accurate quote.
This information is used to work out the:
- Depth of stumps, type of slab or strip footing necessary.
Next, to ensure you keep your costs within your budget, check these costs are in your contracted price:
- Your chosen fitting and fixtures.
(*Note – These prices might be an estimate, the exact make/model/quantity may be unknown)
- The building fee (this may/may not include the costs of obligatory inspections by a building surveyor).
The below costs may not be in your contract price, and so you may have to add them to your budget:
- Mandatory inspections by a building surveyor (if not already included) Up to $2000.
- Planning permit fees (if required by your local Council) These are variable, as they depend on your local Council.
- Lodgement fee paid to your local Council – Costs vary according to your local Council.
- Inspection fee (a fee paid to a private certifier or Council certifier to ‘sign-off’ on your property) Roughly $600 – $2000.
- Government levy charges, when the cost of work is more than $10 000 – Your building surveyor can advise you of this.
Ensure any alterations to the contract are agreed in writing with your builder, such as:
- Prime cost items (fixtures and fittings that are in the contract, but you only have an estimate on price).
The only time this is not required by law is if the builder has reason to believe the changes will not:
- Cause delay to the building process.
- Require a new permit.
- Add over 2% to the original contract price.
If unsure before agreeing to your builder making other changes to the price, you can:
- Call the Building Information Line on 1300 55 75 59 between 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday (except public holidays).
Changes to building work can mean the final price has increased from the initial agreed cost.
For any building permit that was issued from July 2019 onwards, you have a duty to;
- Notify the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) if the altered final cost is $15,625 or more, within 28 days.
You may have to pay a fine if you:
- Do not notify the VBA of alterations to building works.
- Give false information regarding the end price.
For more details, view Consumer Affairs Victoria’s website.
If you find the prices of building a DPU in Victoria too high, there are ways of lowering these costs. These include:
- Not including unspecified fixtures and fittings (i.e. prime cost items that are an estimated price), as these can significantly blow your budget.
- Build a basic design – i.e. do not include a laundry or kitchen in the initial design, then modify it afterwards to make the unit self-contained.
- Do the manual labour work yourself – see my post about “How much does it cost” for advice.
For more information on building contracts, visit Consumer Affairs Victoria’s website.
Transportable Building Regulations in Victoria
Transportables are a movable building. Therefore, they classify as a DPU that can be built on the same lot as your primary dwelling.
My article “Transporting a Granny Flat – How it Works & How to Save Money” covers everything you need to know about these granny flats, including where they are available for purchase in Victoria.
Movable Granny Flat Options for Victoria
List of Granny Flat Builders in Melbourne
Below is a list of granny flat, transportable and movable home builders in Melbourne:
Victorian Government Rules Reform Findings
From August 2020 to March 2021, the Victorian Government trialed a Secondary Dwelling Code, also called a pilot program, in 4 Councils – Greater Bendigo, Murrindindi, Kingston and Moreland.
This trial introduced a code for secondary dwellings, or granny flats, to make it easier for the dwelling to be approved for building, by streamlining the approval process, by using code requirements and the VicSmart planning website.
To be approved through online application, all dwellings had to:
- Be a maximum height of 5m.
- Be a maximum floor area of 60sqm.
- Meet the minimum garden area requirement for their zone, along with other siting and design requirements assessed throughout the permit process.
- Restrict future ability for the land to be able to subdivide.
- Be in a Township, Mixed Use, Residential Growth, General Residential, or Neighbourhood Residential zone.
The four Councils got a total of ten planning permit applications for secondary dwellings. Four of these applications were assessed using the VicSmart assessment pathway, as the other six had an overlay.
Two of the applications had two bedrooms, and these were an average of 59sqm in size. The others had one bedroom, and were an average of 51sqm.
This program is still being assessed, but the VIC Government has said that “valuable data gained from the pilot and feedback from the four Councils will inform the further analysis”.
When building a granny flat, there are two main factors that will decide whether you have a successful application. Your land size must be a minimum of 450sqm.
The other is purpose of occupancy, as Victoria has the most severe rules on granny flats in the whole country. In Victoria it is not easy to get approval for a granny flat that you intend on renting out.
It is easier to be approved to house a dependent family member in a granny flat. So, if you call it a “dependent person’s unit” (DPU), rather than a “secondary dwelling”, approval is more likely. A DPU is, for example, a family member to occupy due to health or economic reasons.
Some Councils insist on a DPU;
- Being a ‘movable building’, or one that is easily removed.
This is as the regulations say the DPU must be removed once the person it was built for ceases to live there.
However, most Councils’ have no record of:
- Where DPU’s have been built
- No system that follows up what happens once the dependent has stopped living in them.
As such, many Councils admit that they do not enforce or monitor removal, so I suggest you check with your Council first.