If your house or property has suffered damage during a recent storm event, before the rebuild it is important that you understand the building and planning laws that may regulate your repairs.

Although planning and building regulations may be the last of your concerns, complying with them will help to avoid any future headache inducing and potentially costly legal issues.

Do I need a building approval to repair my home?

Under the Building Act 1975, a building approval will not normally be required where the work involves repairing or replacing fixtures.

For example, you will not require a new building approval for:

  • repairing kitchen drawers, vanities or floor coverings (e.g. tiles); or
  • repairing or replacing internal wall linings (e.g. replacing gyprock panels).

In some instances, exemptions may apply for minor structural work that does not affect more than 20 per cent of the building’s structural parts, for example, replacing a like-for-like roof beam.

Where you are undertaking more extensive repair work that will likely affect the structural components of your building, you will most likely require a building approval and before undertaking any works you may need to engage a building certifier to confirm the proposed building work complies with relevant building codes.

What if it’s an emergency situation?

The Sustainable Planning Act 2009 provides an exemption for building work undertaken in emergency situations (e.g. where a roof is at risk of collapsing). This exemption allows building work to be done without first obtaining the standard approvals due to an emergency endangering life or health, or the structural safety of a building.

In those circumstances, the building work may be undertaken without a building approval; however you must advise your local government in writing as soon as practicable after starting the work so that they stay informed.

What if I need to demolish my house and start again?

Where a property is outside a character area (or other protective overlay) and the building is structurally unsound, the building can generally be demolished without obtaining planning approval. Even where a planning approval is not required, you should check to see whether separate building approval is required for the demolition component of the work.

If a house is located in a character area or where you have a state or locally listed character place, a planning approval is likely to be required. If you are unsure whether your house is protected, you should contact your local government before undertaking any work.

Will I need a planning approval?

If you are simply rebuilding a previously existing building structure (i.e. like-for-like) you will not need a further planning approval albeit you will still require a building approval and will need to comply with the relevant building codes. This is because planning approvals run with the land indefinitely. If in doubt, you should always contact your local government to discuss your rebuild options.

Often it can be difficult to source approved plans for older houses. Where you are unable to locate a copy of the approved plans for your building, the use of evidence such as photographs, aerial images, and other plans (including sewer and drainage plans) may be relied on to assist with reproducing the destroyed building.

Further information

The Queensland Building and Construction Commission provides a series of fact sheets for owners who are rebuilding after a natural disaster event. These include information on asbestos removal, rebuilding to ensure compliance with cyclone prone area building requirements, and guides to rebuilding a residential house after a flood.

For further information, visit the QBCC home maintenance website here: http://www.qbcc.qld.gov.au/home-maintenance/overview