If you're planning to invest in real estate in Australia, you should be conversant with town planning and building regulations that are applicable for you. All localities have a tentative plan for residential buildings, social amenities, commercial buildings and green areas, and this is the plan that local council employees refer to when granting or denying applications for various developments.
It helps to be versed with the entire city plan, particularly if you're interested in real estate for commercial purposes, as this will determine the value of your development in years to come. This article highlights five scenarios in which planning permission is necessary. If you're in doubt, however, always go to your local council office before beginning any project.
1. Ancillary dwellings
Also called granny flats, people usually construct ancillary dwellings on their lots (as standalone or semi-detached units), e.g. above the garage, rear studios, guest houses or wings etc. to provide additional room for a growing family, e.g. when taking in elderly relatives. Most ancillary dwellings require planning approval, after which you'll need a building permit that allows you to continue with construction.
2. Change of use
This is relevant when you want to re-purpose a building or land intended for business purposes: retail, industrial or commercial. If you're moving your business from one location to another, you may need approval from your local council. If you'll also modify the building, you'll need to submit your plans to the council for approval and be issued with a building permit. Remember that you'll need to fulfil certain criteria, e.g. parking requirements and whether your proposed use is allowed, discretionary (allowed under specific circumstances) or disallowed. You may also need to reveal the nature of your operations and hours of use, as this may affect the permission according to the zoning requirements of the lot.
3. Home Occupation/home business
Home offices are divided into home occupations and home businesses and basically refer to people who work from home. For home occupations:
- the business should only employ members of the family (who live in the same house where the business is)
- the line of business shouldn't be capable of causing injury or adversely affecting the residential neighbourhood
- should display a very small sign and not involve buying and selling of any kind of goods (service only)
There are other requirements before you satisfy criteria for being called a home occupation. Home businesses are slightly larger than the above, e.g. you can only employ one or two people who don't live with you.
Check with your local council; some places allow you to run a home occupation without seeking planning permission, but most require permissions for home businesses.