An occupancy permit is a permit issued under the Building Act 2011 (WA) which specifies the authorised use and classification for a building, such as ‘office’ or ‘retail’.

The legislation requires that the owner and occupiers of all buildings (except for single dwellings, sheds or pools etc.) completed after 2 April 2012 obtain occupancy permits before building spaces can be occupied and used.

Most buildings completed before 2 April 2012 will have a ‘certificate of classification’, which is an occupancy certificate issued under the old legislation.

Types of occupancy permits

The owner of a building may decide to have one occupancy permit for a whole building. This is generally done if the building is only used for one type of use, for example as offices. For most large buildings the owner may choose to obtain occupancy permits for different parts of the building, for example the ground floor retail premises and the upper floor offices. The owner may also obtain only occupancy permits for the common areas and leave it up to its tenants to obtain occupancy permits for each premises.

Change of use, fitout and renovations

Any renovations, fitout or minor building work completed after 2 April 2012 do not require a new occupancy permit to be obtained so long as the works do not involve a change of authorised use or classification. This means that an existing occupancy permit or certificate of classification can be relied upon for the purpose of occupancy. However, it is important to bear in mind that such works may still require a building permit.

If there is a change of use in one part of a building, with the use of the rest of the building remaining unchanged, then a new occupancy permit will need to be issued for the affected part of that building.

If new fit-out work is to be completed by a tenant, an occupancy permit will probably not be issued until the fit-out work is complete. Once the permit is granted for a particular use, only a change to the authorised use or classification for the premises would necessitate the need to apply for a new occupancy certificate.

What owners and tenants should look out for

If you are an owner or tenant, it is important to ensure that you have a copy of the occupancy permit for the building or your premises.

If you are building or moving to a new building, you may need to apply for a temporary occupancy permit when the fit out of your premises is complete so that you can commence trading. If you are moving into an existing building you will need to consider whether your occupancy will mean that the building will have a different use or classification.

When considering fit-out works, renovations or moving into a building with an existing occupancy permit it is important to seek advice as to whether you will need to apply for a new occupancy permit or to alter your existing permit.