All budding renovators and property developing moguls will need to deal with the dreaded DA at some stage. So what exactly is a DA? Well, if you’re planning on making structural changes to your property, you may need to lodge a development application with your local council. The time it takes for approval will depend on the type development and the scale of your application plus the efficiency of your local council. Small extensions and renovations that comply with local building regulations can be pushed through in a short period of time whereas in large scale developments, applications can span years.

So if you’re planning a small scale renovation, what ‘approvals’ will you need to consider? In Brisbane, the governing body is the Brisbane City Council and most renovation projects will at the very least require building approval or ‘certification’. In most cases this certification is carried out by an accredited private building certifier who assesses your project against the Building Code of Australia as well as other local regulations. They will conduct a number scheduled inspections through the build process and a final inspection before issuing final certification. However, if your proposed project does not meet council code specifications then a planning application may be required.

Generally speaking, most renovation projects can be built without planning applications but there may be situations where your proposal does not comply with all of the acceptable outcomes of the relevant code hence a planning application will be needed. Other times a planning application may be required is when the projects is in traditional building character overlay. For external extensions to all houses in a Traditional building character overlay, regardless of the age of the house, a planning application is likely required. But renovations that involve internal works only are not likely to require planning approval from Council. It is best to speak with a qualified Building certifier to determine if your proposal triggers the need for a planning application.

Local draftspeople or architects should have sound knowledge of the legal requirements

The best piece of advice is to hire a local draftsperson or architect who is familiar with your council requirements. Planning and certification can be a complicated game and it’s sometimes best to let the professionals guide you. Local draftspeople or architects should have sound knowledge of the legal requirements, know the best course of action and make recommendations to the design to speed up the approval process. Before your builder can even dig a hole, you’ll need to submit such paperwork as scaled architectural drawings, renders, drainage plans, electrical plans, energy efficiency reports, geotechnical reports and an engineers report. Don’t even consider undertaking this process on your own!

What about when your DIY’ing? Unless you’re a qualified owner builder or fully licensed builder, undertaking large structural renovations should be left to the professionals. Small internal changes or maintenance work is considered minor and usually requires no further input or certification. Other projects you may be able to undertake include building a pergola, fences (under 2 metres), rainwater tanks (excluding internal plumbing work), general landscaping and retaining walls (under 1 metre).

Neighbourly love. There’s nothing like builders onsite at 7:00AM daily for 6-months to stretch your usual friendly neighbours patience. But it is your best interest to keep you neighbours both in the loop and on side. If you are submitting for planning application your neighbours may have the opportunity to object once it has been lodged and you’ll waste valuable time and money with back and forth negotiation. It is always best to discuss your plans ahead of time and ensure you have done everything possible to appease their wills and wants. Sometimes they may be unreasonable and ultimately will become a battle you’re required to have. But until that day, keep them on your team!

Don’t leave it until the last minute. Some approvals can come through in a week, others can be held up in bureaucracy. It’s best to approach it with the assumption that a few hoops will need to be jumped through and allow plenty of time to get your plans stamped and approvals in place. Keep on top of your certifiers and architectural professionals, as there will be a number of documents required from energy reports to termite management protection reports all of which can hold up the process.