Accredited certifiers assess developments and determine applications for development certificates. They are regulated by the Building Professionals Board and subject to strict accreditation criteria and legislative requirements.
Certifiers are independent regulators and public officials. They do not work for builders, developers or homeowners. Certifiers must put the public interest first and only issue certificates if all legislative requirements are met.
Most certifiers are qualified building surveyors who can approve building construction and occupation and act as the principal certifying authority (PCA) for development. The other certifier categories including swimming pool inspectors, engineers, strata and subdivision certifiers.
Types of development certificates
Different certificates apply to each type and stage of development – ask your local council or a certifier about what certificates you need.
- Construction certificates state that work completed in accordance with approved plans and specifications will comply with legislative requirements.
- Complying development certificates state that proposed development is complying development and (if carried out as specified) will comply with legislative requirements.
- Occupation certificates authorise the occupation and use of a new building, or a change of use for an existing building.
- (Swimming pool) certificates of compliance are valid for three years and permit the sale or lease of a residential property with a swimming pool or spa pool.
- Compliance certificates confirm that work or designs meet specified standards.
- Strata certificates authorise the registration of a strata plan, strata plan of subdivision or notice of conversion.
- Subdivision certificates authorise the registration of a plan of subdivision under the Conveyancing Act 1919.
Appointing a principal certifying authority
If your development needs approval (a construction certificate or complying development certificate), you must appoint a principal certifying authority (PCA) and sign a written contract with them before work starts. Any accredited building surveyor certifier, the local council or an accredited body corporate (a certification company) can be the PCA for building work.
Only the person with ‘benefit of development consent’ can appoint a PCA. This person is usually the property owner. A builder is not allowed to appoint a PCA, even if the owner gives permission. This ensures the independence of the PCA’s assessment. Owners do not have to appoint a certifier suggested by a builder.
A written contract with the PCA is needed before work starts. ‘Work’ includes assessing an application for development, not just physical building work.
The PCA will also:
- check the builder is licensed and has obtained insurance under the Home Building Compensation Fund (if required)
- check the owner has met all pre-commencement conditions of consent, including obtaining any required certificates or reports.
Inspections and notices
The PCA carries out mandatory ‘critical stage’ inspections during construction to make sure the work complies with the development consent and legislative requirements.
The builder will contact the PCA in advance to book each inspection. The PCA will inspect the work in person but may also require expert reports or certificates, for example, an engineer's report for building footings.
If the work does not comply, the PCA will let the owner and builder know, and has authority to issue a notice requiring work to be done. By law, the PCA (if a private certifier) must send a copy of the notice to the council.
The PCA will issue an occupation certificate if they believe the completed building meets all relevant conditions of consent, is generally consistent with the approved plans, and is fit to occupy. The property owner must apply for an occupation certificate and cannot use or occupy a building until it’s issued. An occupation certificate does not verify the quality of the work, or that the building matches the plans exactly (slight variations during construction are often necessary and to be expected).
The PCA is not a project manager or building site supervisor
The builder is responsible for the quality of the building work, building in accordance with the approved plans, and for the work of subcontractors. The owner is responsible for meeting the conditions of development consent. Owners must read each condition carefully and communicate with the builder and PCA to ensure conditions are met at the appropriate stage of construction.
Communication is key
Talking with the PCA and builder reduces the chance of a minor concerns becoming a major problem. Most concerns that are raised with the Building Professionals Board are not a certifier’s responsibility and could have been avoided with better communication. Find out who can help with common development concerns or, if appropriate, you can replace your certifier.