Keep planning rules in mind
Under what circumstances do you need to get council approval for any walls, fencing, decks or pergolas at the front or back of your property?
Building work must meet the requirements of both planning and building legislation.
Each is a separate assessment and approval process that determines the compliance of development (construction and other work, such as clearing land).
You might not require a building permit for a small shed, but planning requirements might not permit the shed to be located in the front yard or adjacent to neighbouring land.
You must ensure you meet both planning and building legislation with all works you are proposing.
New building legislation in place since April 2, 2012, provides a more consistent approach to minor structures.
The Building Regulations 2012 include a schedule of building work that is exempt from requiring a building permit.
It is important to note that as the owner of the land, you are responsible to ensure building work complies with relevant building standards and other legislation.
For example, you cannot build certain buildings over effluent disposal systems, and must comply with Residential Planning Code (R-Codes). Access to the R-Codes is available on the Department of Planning Website, www.planning.wa.gov.au.
The following list is a guide to some of the building work that might not require a building permit:
■ Retaining walls less than 500mm high not supporting neighbouring land and not associated with other building work.
(If you are installing a retaining wall and extending your home, you would need to include the retaining wall on the plans for the application and approval.)
■ Freestanding shed-type buildings that are less than 10sqm, no higher than 2.4m and not located in a cyclonic area do not require a building permit.
■ Construction of a pergola (unroofed structure) with an area not exceeding 20sqm, with a height not more than 2.4m and not located in a cyclonic area.
■ Renovating, altering, improving or maintenance work on existing buildings does not require a building permit.
This is only valid if the work being undertaken does not include structural work or an increase or decrease in the existing floor area.
Keep in mind that the work must include the same, or similar materials being replaced, the building is not changing use (i.e. changing a garage into a games room).
The work must still be compliant with relevant codes and standards, and the building is not subject to an order, agreement, or permit under the Heritage Act.
■ Boundary fences in non-cyclonic areas do not require a building permit if they meet the specifications of any local laws of the council, with the exception of masonry walls greater than 750mm in height and swimming pool safety barriers for new pools.
■ Water tanks with less than 5000-litre capacity.
■ Photovoltaic panels or solar hot-water systems on domestic buildings.
Although I have summarised the main exempt structures and building work, it is always prudent to contact your local council to check any requirements that may be relevant for your home.