Although building work can cause disruption, many concerns can be resolved with clear and early communication. In the first instance, put your concerns in writing by emailing the property owner/developer, local council and/or the principal certifying authority (PCA).
What is a principal certifying authority (PCA)?
The PCA will be either the local council or a private accredited certifier. The PCA is an independent authority who inspects the development at certain stages to ensure it meets legislative requirements and conditions of consent, but does not supervise or manage the project. The PCA can take action if work does not meet requirements.
Powers of the Building Professionals Board
The Building Professionals Board can investigate complaints against accredited certifiers, and against local councils in their capacity as certifying authorities.
The Board has no power to:
- order building work to stop, or unauthorised work or property damage to be rectified
- act on complaints against builders, tradespeople or property owners
- declare a development certificate invalid, even if it was issued improperly.
Go to the complaints page if you’re concerned about the conduct of a certifier.
Powers of private certifiers
If required, a private certifier may issue a notice requiring the owner or builder to take certain action to rectify a non-compliance. However, only the local council can enforce the notice.
Powers of local councils
Councils have much stronger enforcement powers than private certifiers and can act even if not the PCA for a development. A council may issue orders, stop work notices or penalty infringement notices (fines) if work breaches legislative requirements or conditions of consent, and can enforce issues such as hours of work, dust, noise and activities on footpaths/roads. Also, council rangers can usually take more immediate action than a private certifier can.
Urgent matters such as dangerous excavations or unprotected trees and/or significant non-compliances with a development approval should be directed to the council for immediate attention.
Responsibilities of property owners and builders
The property owner is responsible for meeting the conditions of the development approval. The builder is responsible for supervising the site and the work of subcontractors. The builder must make sure that work is done in accordance with the approved plans, the Building Code of Australia and Australian Standards.
Important information about ‘complying development’
Complying development is a ‘fast-track’ approval process that offers an alternative to lodging a development application for a building such as a house. The proposal must meet criteria set by State policy, and the same criteria apply whether an application is determined by a council or a private certifier.
Although neighbours must be notified of some proposed complying development, public consultation is not required. Also, an applicant, council or certifier does not have to give neighbours a copy of the proposed plans.
- The Department of Planning and Environment has information about complying development and other development approval pathways and requirements.
- The Office of Local Government publishes contact details for all NSW councils.
- NSW Fair Trading licenses builders and tradespeople to carry out residential building work, and offers a dispute resolution service.
- SafeWork NSW may be contacted in regards to asbestos removal and storage, and unsafe building sites.
- A community justice centre or solicitor may be able to help if a neighbouring development has damaged your property (including trees and fences).
- The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal may hear building disputes.