What is the Process for Obtaining Building Permits for a Townhouse or Duplex?

The first few steps to developing a property are the hardest for many developers. Discover how to obtain the necessary permits for your duplex or townhouse project.


Let’s face it. Building a townhouse or duplex can be a rather complex process. 

From the initial design phase to the finishing touches, it can take you anywhere from 18 months to two years to complete the build. What’s more, the design and approval process alone consumes half of that time.

But if you’re ready to tackle this long and winding undertaking, you’ve come to the right place. 

This article will provide you with the step-by-step process for obtaining building permits for a townhouse or duplex in Australia. This way, you’ll have the knowledge and confidence to embark on your development project.

Permits and Approvals for Duplex/Townhouse Developments

To bring your duplex or townhouse project to fruition, you’ll need to secure several essential permits. You need them before construction can commence. 

Keep in mind that the specific requirements may vary, depending on the location and local council regulations. This is why it’s advisable to consult the local council of the area where you plan to build.

But the following permits are commonly required throughout Australia:

Planning Permit

This is also known as a development approval or planning approval. And it’s typically the first permit you’ll need to obtain. 

A planning permit ensures that your proposed project aligns with the zoning regulations and development guidelines set by the local council. Being granted one means your project adheres to the guidelines. It meets the council’s requirements on land use, setbacks, height restrictions, landscaping, and overall design compliance with the local planning scheme.

Building Permit

Once you have secured the planning permit, the building permit is next. 

This permit verifies that your construction plans and specifications comply with the building codes, safety standards, and regulations set by the council. It also ensures that your project meets structural integrity, fire safety, energy efficiency, and accessibility requirements.

Your local council will review your plans to ensure compliance. If it’s approved, they’ll issue the building permit and allow you to start construction.

Occupancy Permit

This is also referred to as a certificate of occupancy or a certificate of final inspection. The occupancy permit is the final permit you will need before anyone can live in your newly constructed duplex or townhouse. It confirms that your project has been completed in accordance with the approved plans, building regulations, and relevant codes.

To obtain the occupancy permit, you’ll likely need to schedule a final inspection by a building surveyor or council representative.

They will assess the building’s construction and ensure it meets all necessary requirements for occupancy. These include having safety, and fire protection systems, and other specific conditions outlined in the building permit. 

Upon successful inspection, the occupancy permit is issued. 

How To get the Necessary Permits for Your Duplex/Townhouse

Step 1: Identify the relevant local government authority or council

You need to determine who specifically has jurisdiction over the area where your project is located. Usually, you can find this information on the council’s website or by contacting their offices directly.

Step 2: Ask which of the permits mentioned above are required for approval

Contact the local government authority or council assigned to your property’s location. Then, confirm which permits are required for approval. They’ll use the specifics of your project and the local regulations as their basis.

Step 3: Gather the necessary documentation and forms

Once you know which permits you need to acquire, collect all the required documentation and forms for your permit application. This may include:

  • Detailed site plan

You must have a site plan that demonstrates compliance with lot and floor area limitations, setbacks, and any other relevant requirements.

  • Proof of consultation

Provide evidence of your consultation with adjoining residents and landowners. This can include your correspondence with them, minutes of the meeting, or signed acknowledgment forms.

  • Supporting documents

If your building’s site is in a bushfire-prone land, heritage site, or scenic protection zone, there are specific requirements to meet before you can start your project. So, gather any supporting documents that show you’ll adhere to those requirements.

  • Statements of Environment Effects/Environmental Impact Assessment

Depending on the scale of your project, you may need to provide statements or assessments detailing your project’s potential environmental impacts. You’ll also need to submit your mitigation measures.

  • Feasibility study

In some cases, a feasibility study may be required from you. This study is to assess the viability and impact of your project on the surrounding area.

Once you have the required documents, submit that together with your completed application to your local council. It could either be through an online portal or physical submission. 

Step 4: Pay The Necessary Levy

Any required application fees or levies associated with the permit application must be paid for it to be processed. The specific fees will vary, depending on the council and the nature of your project.

Step 5: Comply with the initial review and provide additional documents

After submitting your application, the local government authority or council will conduct an initial review of your plans. They may also request additional supporting documents or clarification on certain aspects of your project. 

Cooperate with their requests and provide any necessary information promptly.

Step 6: Ensure Continued Compliance After Approval

If your application is approved and the permits are granted…

You can now start the construction stage. But you must ensure continued compliance with the conditions outlined on the permits granted to you. Here are three key things to remember:

  • Adhere to the approved plans
  • Follow any specified construction timelines
  • Fulfil obligations or inspections as required by the local government authority.

Make the Process Easier With Archistar

Obtaining building permits for any property development project is clearly a tedious task. Fortunately, you can streamline the permit and approval process for your development project.

And it’s by leveraging the capabilities of Archistar.

Archistar is an innovative platform with a wealth of tools and resources to enhance your planning and design process. It can generate detailed plans, prepare feasibility reports, and conduct lot/location assessments for you quickly and with less effort. And its advanced algorithms and data-driven insights can help you make informed decisions much easier.

Simplify and expedite the permit application process. Try out Archistar for free today and discover how it can help ensure that your project aligns with local regulations and requirements.