What is an Occupancy Permit?

In Victoria a building or structure constructed on or after July 1, 1994 are required to be issued with an Occupancy Permit ("OP") from the Relevant Building Surveyor ("RBS") as evidence of safe and habitable occupation. When you come to the end of your building project the RBS will need to issue an Occupancy Permit or a Certificate of Final Inspection depending on the requirements of the building permit.

CEO, Firewize
30 Nov, 2020

One of the main objectives of the Building Act 1993 (the Act) is “to protect the safety and health of people who use those buildings and to enhance the amenity of buildings”. The relevant building surveyor ("RBS") issuing an Occupancy Permit, has a duty of care to ensure that buildings are safe and habitable.

An occupancy permit issued in accordance with section 46 of the Act is evidence that the building or part of the building is suitable for occupation:

BUILDING ACT 1993 - SECT 46
Effect of occupancy permit
    (1) An occupancy permit under this Division is evidence that the building or part of a building to which it applies is suitable for occupation.
    (2) An occupancy permit under this Division is not evidence that the building or part of a building to which it applies complies with this Act or the building regulations.

An occupancy permit is typically issued with a section outlining the conditions of occupation in the form of a table that includes categories of equipment and safety installations that include;

  • Building fire integrity
  • Means of egress
  • Signs
  • Lighting
  • Fire-fighting services and equipment
  • Air handling systems
  • Automatic fire detection and alarm systems
  • Occupant warning systems
  • Lifts
  • Standby power supply systems
  • Building clearance and fire appliances
  • Other measures
  • Building use and application

These categories are a historical reference to Part I1 of the 2013 edition of the National Construction Code ("NCC"), Volume One.  In the 2014 edition and all following editions of the NCC, Part I1 was removed, however its legacy continues to remain in wide use today.

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The Victorian Building Authority

The Victorian Building Authority ("VBA") is the Victorian Government department responsible for the administration and application of building legislation such as the Building Act & Building Regulations in Victoria.  The VBA produce a range of documents including "Practice Notes" to help industry professionals and the community to interpret and apply legislation.

Practice Note 23 and 24 are documents that the VBA have produced and amended from time to time that describe the Maintenance of Essential Safety Measures (PN 23) and Occupancy Permits (PN 24).

Occupancy Permit compared to a Certificate of Final Inspection

Occupancy Permit

For a new building, the Relevant Building Surveyor will issue an Occupancy Permit. An occupancy permit is a document that confirms your building surveyor is satisfied the building is suitable for occupation, and also details any conditions that relate to the occupation. These conditions of occupation will typically list the following in the form of a table that states;

*Conditions to which this permit is subject

Occupation is subject to the following conditions—

  1. Essential safety measures
    The following essential safety measures must be inspected, tested and maintained in accordance with the maintenance requirements set out in the following table;
Essential safety measures required to be provided in the building or place of public entertainment Provision of the Building Regulations 2018 applicable to installation and operation of essential safety measure The level of performance that each essential safety measure must achieve to fulfil its purpose The frequency and type of maintenance required for each essential safety measure The frequency and type of testing and inspections required for each essential safety measure
         
  1. *Other conditions

Certificate of Final Inspection

The Relevant Building Surveyor will issue Certificate of Final Inspection ("COI") for the alteration or addition to an existing building or structure. An alteration or addition to an existing building or structure do not require an occupancy permit, as the existing building should already have an occupancy permit.

Definitions

There are a number of key concepts covered by this article, some of which may be new to you or are simply confusion.  Below, we have provided an overview of some of these terms and definitions;

Building Work
The Building Regulations (Vic) 1993 defines building work as meaning "work for or in connection with the construction, demolition or removal of a building."
Certificate of Final Inspection
A Certificate of Final Inspection ("COFI") is a statutory document issued under the Building Act 1993. A Certificate of Final Inspection is issued for extensions or alterations to existing buildings (including homes) as well as other outbuildings that do not require an Occupancy Permit.
Municipal Building Surveyor
A Municipal Building Surveyors ("MBS") is a building surveyor who are appointed by the relevant local council if you apply directly for a building permit.
Occupancy Permit
An Occupancy Permit is a form issued by the Relevant Building Surveyor or as evidence that the building or part of a building to which it applies is suitable for occupation.
Private Building Surveyor
A Private Building Surveyor ("PBS") means a building surveyor registered under Part 11 of the Building Act (Vic) 1993 as defined in Section 3 of the Act.
Relevant Building Surveyor
The Relevant Building Surveyor ("RBS") means a building surveyor registered under Part 11 of the Building Act (Vic) 1993) as defined in Section 3 of the Building Act (Vic) 1993.
Victorian Building Authority
The Victorian Building Authority ("VBA") regulate Victoria's building and plumbing industries.