To strengthen certification and building regulation in NSW, accredited certifiers and local councils need to report data on building certification to the NSW Government. This was mandatory from 1 July 2018.
Certification data is currently held by certifiers and councils in different formats and systems. Collecting this will help improve public policy by giving the Government real-time, centralised information on building activity across NSW.
Who needs to report data?
The principal certifying authority (PCA) has a responsibility to report data. This includes councils, category A1, A2 and A3 certifiers and accredited bodies corporate. Certifiers in categories A4, B1, C1-C16, D1 and E1 are not required to report data, but their existing, legislated recordkeeping requirements still apply.
What data needs to be reported?
Data is submitted throughout the development process, from the commencement of building work to the issue of the final occupation certificate. Download a summary of the required data fields.
How can data be reported?
Councils and certifiers can choose from three reporting options:
- API (application programming interface)
- SFTP (secure file transfer protocol)
- CertAbility app for mobile and tablet (iOS / Apple and Android).
Data must be reported within two days after each event (e.g. completing a critical stage inspection).
Certifiers and councils should already have chosen their preferred data reporting option and be reporting data.
Providers of certification software can download technical specifications for the API and SFTP channels.
Compliant software products
The following software products and providers are the only products/providers verified by the Government as compliant with the data reporting requirements.
- Better Built Software
- Building Certification Systems (BCS) certification software
- Digital Fusion
- GeekHQ spreadsheet template for SFTP
- Greenlight Online Permit Manager
- PermAssist certification software
- Sentia (contact company directly for details)
- Sol1 (contact company directly for details)
- Visual Approvals certification software
Important: Certifiers are responsible for checking any certificate/document generated from these products meets legislative requirements.
Data reporting options
The best reporting option for each certifying authority depends on the software used for recordkeeping and the volume of certification work.
- The API (application programming interface) allows bulk data upload and suits certification practices that use cloud-based software.
- The SFTP (secure file transfer protocol) allows bulk data upload and generally suits most councils and some medium-sized private certification practices.
- The CertAbility app for mobile / tablet requires manual data entry for each project and suits low-volume certification practices (council or private).
You can change your reporting option if your business needs change. Each option suits a different business model, so it’s unlikely you’ll use more than one option.
Which option is best for my organisation?
API (application programming interface)
The API suits councils or certifiers that use or are considering cloud-based certification software.
Some of the major providers of certification software are finalising updates to their products. Contact your software provider for details. Updated products will be listed on this webpage as soon as they are available - these are the only products verified by the Government as meeting requirements.
Software providers and IT specialists, download the:
- API specifications from the NSW Government API website
- API descriptions spreadsheet (XLSX, 80.05 KB)
- Presentation from our April 2018 technical roadshow (PDF, 586.92 KB) - slides 24-28 explain the API.
When you’re ready to test your product email email@example.com with your name and phone number to request access to the ‘Building Certifiers API’. You will initially be given access to a testing environment, to ensure error-free data transfers, before you can register for the production environment.
SFTP (secure file transfer protocol)
The SFTP suits councils or certifiers that:
- use a database or software package for recordkeeping, but it’s not necessarily certification software nor cloud-based
- have, or can access, IT capacity to make the necessary data and network changes to adopt the SFTP option (further IT support shouldn’t be required once the SFTP is set up).
If this sounds like you, download the:
- Technical documentation (XLSX, 69.3 KB) for the SFTP channel
- Presentation from our April 2018 technical roadshow - slides 16-23 explain the SFTP.
Note: the SFTP specifications are not forms to fill out – they are instructions for how to configure the data file. If you do not have expertise in software development, forward the documents without alteration to your IT/ software provider.
When you're ready to test your system email firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact details, organisation name and IP address. If needed, ask your IT service provider to ‘white list’ our IP addresses/names ( 22.214.171.124 | sftp.uat.onegov.nsw.gov.au ) and ( 126.96.36.199 | sftp.onegov.nsw.gov.au ).
You will initially be given access to a testing environment to make sure you transfer data without errors, before you can send data to the production environment.
CertAbility web app
The free CertAbility web app suits certification practices that:
- have a low volume of certification work (because the app requires manual data entry for each project)
- have limited IT capacity
- don't currently use a database or dedicated certification software, and do not intend to upgrade.
If you need help, download the CertAbility user guide (PDF, 1569.49 KB).
The app requires manual data entry and is not suited for high-volume certification practices. If your practice is growing, consider either the API or SFTP for more long-term convenience.
Need more information?
Use the links to access the sections of the commonly asked questions about certification data reporting:
Why must certifying authorities report data about building certification?
The data reporting requirements for certifying authorities will provide the NSW Government with centralised, real-time information about development.
Benefits of this include:
- more targeted and effective, evidence-based regulation
- safer and more compliant buildings, enabled by data-sharing with local councils to increase their ability to monitor developments in their area and take action if a development breaches legislative requirements
- increased community confidence in the certification system and the professionalism of certifiers
- better dissemination of data across government, leading to smarter service delivery. Currently, development data reported by councils to the Australian Bureau of Statistics is inaccessible by the NSW Government.
What data needs to be reported?
The Building Professionals (Provision of Information) Order 2018 (PDF, 109.16 KB) sets the required data fields.
How will certification data be used?
The data is being used to:
- streamline regulation where appropriate
- improve the evidence base for more effective regulation
- assist councils in monitoring development in their local area.
Note: the data is not publicly available (see ‘Who will access the data and how is my privacy protected?’ below).
How does reporting of certification data relate to the Planning Portal?
The reporting of certification data and the NSW Planning Portal complements each other.
Certification data reporting covers certificates issued, critical stage inspections and important details such as performance solutions which are not captured in the Planning Portal.
Both systems gather some basic data needed to verify the location, dates and responsible parties for a development.
API and SFTP
This section contains information that relates only to the API and SFTP. Other sections of this page have information that applies to all three reporting options.
How do I access the API or SFTP specifications?
See data reporting options for technical specifications and instructions.
- The specifications are technical documents. If you do not have expertise in software development, forward the documents without alteration to your software provider.
- The SFTP document is not a template to fill out. It is an explanation of how to create a set of txt files that are zipped and sent via SFTP.
Do I have to send all records with each data transfer?
No, you only need to send amendments and updates. However, you may send all data for all developments if you prefer.
For the SFTP, is it one zip file per building work or one overall?
Upload one zip file in total for all building works. The zip file must contain 13 txt files. Each txt file can have data about multiple building works.
Certability web app
This section contains information that relates only to the app. Other sections of this page have information that applies to all three reporting options.
Can I use my CertAbility mobile app account for the web app?
Yes. Simply login with your current account details.
How do I register a new account?
How do I use CertAbility?
Note: IT support for the 'mobile-only' CertAbility app is being scaled back to support the new web-based app.
Can I use CertAbility on a desktop PC, mobile, laptop and tablet?
Yes. Use any computer or mobile device to access CertAbility.
How can an accredited body corporate (company) use CertAbility?
The accredited company will have its own CertAbility account. Use the company account for projects where the company is the PCA.
A1-A3 certifiers who work for the company may also have their own account to use if they are individually appointed as PCA.
Councils and certifiers
Which categories of certifiers must report data?
Only category A1, A2 and A3 certifiers must report data, and only when appointed as principal certifying authority (PCA). All other certifiers do not need to report data, but must still meet their existing legislated recordkeeping requirements, which have not changed.
Certifiers with multiple categories of accreditation including A1-A3 only need to report work done under their A1-A3 accreditation, and only when appointed as PCA.
Local councils and accredited bodies corporate must also report data for their PCA work.
Example: if you are an A2 certifier who carries out a critical stage inspection on behalf of the PCA of a development, you do not have to report data for that inspection.
What works do NOT need to be reported?
Data do not need to be reported for:
- swimming pools
- demolition, when there is no building work (i.e. the development only involves demolition)
- subdivision, when there is no building work
- Crown building work
- mining development.
Certifiers’ existing recordkeeping requirements for all their certification work still apply.
Which reporting option should I choose?
There are three reporting options, each designed for a different type of certification practice.
Can I change my reporting option?
Yes, but keep in mind:
- it may incur a cost (e.g. to install or modify software, or retrain staff)
- existing certification projects must be finished using the same reporting option that each was started with.
It’s recommended to choose the reporting option that best meets your needs from the start.
You cannot change options midway for an individual project (but see below about transferring work). For example, if you use CertAbility to report a critical stage inspection, you can’t use the API to report the next inspection for that development.
How to transfer your works to a new reporting option
First, contact NSW Fair Trading asking to have all your building works transferred.
If works are not transferred properly, it may create a duplicate record if you submit data for an existing work using a different reporting method. Duplicate records will impact the accuracy of the database. For regulatory decision making, it is important to have data as accurate as possible.
Can I use more than one reporting option?
Yes, but you may only use one reporting option for each individual development. If you submit data for a building via a particular option (e.g. API), you must continue with this option until the work is complete (i.e. a final occupation certificate is issued).
You may however change options as your business needs change (see previous question).
Each reporting option suits a different business model, so it’s unlikely you’ll want or need to use more than one option at the same time. Find out how to choose the right data reporting option for you.
Can office staff report data on a certifier’s behalf?
Yes. A non-accredited person, such as a certifier’s colleague or spouse, can enter data on behalf of a certifier.
The PCA is responsible for data reporting done on his/her behalf.
Note: Administrative staff can create an 'other'-type CertAbility account without first seeking the Board's approval. They should not use the PCA's account.
Which software providers have updated their software to enable data reporting?
The listed products are the only products verified by the NSW Government as meeting requirements.
Please contact your software provider or IT support for more information.
Who can access the data and how is my privacy protected?
Access to the data is restricted by section 82A of the Building Professionals Act 2005, which lists relevant agencies and purposes for data-sharing.
The Minister has authority to enter into data-sharing arrangements with local councils. Councils already receive and hold records from private certifiers, so data-sharing arrangements will not compromise a certifier’s privacy or that of their clients. Councils will only receive data that is relevant to their local government area.
Giving a council real-time updates as developments progress will help the council take more effective enforcement action if required. This benefits certifiers and the broader community.
How often do I need to report data?
PCAs must provide data at each reporting stage within 2 days of the event (such as completing an inspection). The first time data must be reported for an individual development is no later than 2 days before building work commences.
CertAbility and API data transfers instantly to our database. Users should report data as soon as practicable after each certificate or notice is issued and each inspection completed.
SFTP processing occurs every day, including public holidays at approximately 7pm. This is an 'insert new and update' process. You don't need to send every record all the time, just new items and amendments.
Are there penalties for not reporting data?
Legislation has always required certifiers to keep certain records and forward certain information and documents to local councils. This has not changed.
Reporting was mandatory from 1 July 2018. Certifying authorities who fail to meet their reporting requirements may be subject to investigation and disciplinary action.
The maximum penalty for failing to report is a $5,500 fine and/or a penalty infringement notice of $1,500 for individuals ($3,000 for corporations).
What if no final occupation certificate is issued?
The record for that building work will remain open in our database if no final occupation certificate (OC) is issued. There is no penalty for having an ‘open’ record.
This important information will show how many developments, and which types of development, are not finalised.
What if the principal certifying authority changes?
The outgoing PCA will report all certification work on the development that is carried out up to the date of the change of PCA. The new PCA will then commence reporting for the development after the change of PCA date.
Depending on the reporting method used, the new PCA may or may not need to re-enter data for certification work by the previous PCA.
- If both PCAs use CertAbility, the outgoing PCA can use the app’s ‘transfer work’ function to transfer the building work to the new PCA. The new PCA can then accept the work within the app and will not need to re-enter data.
- If the outgoing PCA uses CertAbility, and the new PCA uses the API or SFTP, the outgoing PCA can generate an export file (csv format) from the app and send it to the new PCA. Although the new PCA will need to re-enter the data, the file will provide a reference point.
- If the outgoing PCA uses the API or SFTP, and the new PCA uses CertAbility, the new PCA will need to re-enter data for work by the previous PCA.
How do I report a staged DA?
Simply report each construction certificate (CC) as an additional CC for that DA. All three data reporting channels allow multiple CCs to be recorded for a DA.
Are building information certificates reported on?
No, building information certificates issued by a council do not need to be reported.