The Ultimate 2021 Guide to Victorian Backyard Cabin Permits

Updated: Jan 17

You are probably here today because you are considering building a backyard cabin in Victoria and why wouldn't you! Backyard Cabins and Granny Flats are a great way to extend your living space, add value to your property or build that perfect home office or gym right in your backyard. While building a backyard cabin in Victoria is fairly straight forward (especially one of our scandinavian beauties like the Crete Panorama or the Sicilia 20!) there are a few important items you need to cover off to make sure your cabin is legal and compliant with local and government regulations.

Planning Permits VS Building Permits? Whats the deal?

I am going to do my very best today to explain the in's and out's of the compliance required when building a backyard cabin in Victoria, before I go on I want to say that you should ALWAYS do your own research, check with your local council or a compliance specialist BEFORE purchasing ANY type of backyard cabin, shed or building.

Let's begin.....Planning Permits and Building Permits are two different things. That might seem obvious to some, however, it's probably the most common question our team receive on a daily basis.

Planning Permits

Planning Permits are issued by your local council and effectively 'approve' or 'deny' the application of works to take place on a particular parcel of land. Council/Town Planners are the best people to speak to when assessing the need for a Planning Permit. Planning Permits relate to your local councils 'planning scheme' which is typically aligned with the state objectives to shape and create a 'plan' for your community's growth, including things like your local building characteristics, single dwelling vs apartment ratio, parks and recreation and other important factors that shape your neighbourhood.

While quite often Planning Permits may not be required for a backyard cabin in Victoria, it is your responsibility to ensure you have written approval (from council - which typically costs a few hundred dollars) that your cabin doesn't require a planning permit. This can be done by contacting your local Council Town Planner (We can provide you with most of the paperwork they are likely to request) or alternatively you can appoint a compliance specialist to arrange this for you.

If you have spoken to council and you defiantly need a planning permit, The Victorian Governments 'Vic Smart' Online Planning Application program offers a simple, 10-Day turn around Planning Application.

  • Step 1 - Find out if you require a planning permit? (Speak to your local Council Town Planner)

  • Step 3 - Lodge your application or obtain written consent from council that your project does not require a planning permit.

Building Permits

A Building Permit is a certification given to a new building or existing alteration to confirm that it complies with the minimum standards of construction outlined in the Victorian Building Regulations 2006 criteria.

Most Building Permits are issued by a local Private Building Surveyor, although some councils are now employing a Building Surveyor to assist with permits within the council, however, this is pretty rare in Victoria.

Building Permits will most likely require detailed Architectural drawings, Structural Engineering Certificates, Plans and Designs for Sub-Floor Construction, Soil Tests and potentially a range of other criteria.

While many Cabins may be exempt from a Planning Permit, very few are exempt from a Building Permit in Victoria.

Despite many companies claiming "No Permit Required" we would always recommend you do your own homework. In many cases these companies are referring to No 'Planning Permit' Required, when it is likely a building permit is still needed.

Click here for more information on Victoria's current building permit exemptions.

How do I start applying to Build a Backyard Cabin?

So, here are the recommended steps for completing this process yourself - Alternatively you can hire a compliance professional to lodge this information for you and arrange the necessary compliance. (Note some locations may require more or less steps)

Step 1

Pick your cabin, mark out the space make sure it fits, gather the details about the cabin, Hight, Width, Composition, etc.

Step 2

Take the information to your Local Town Planner and ask them if you require a planning permit to build your cabin. They may ask you for your address, drawings of the location and the cabin dimensions, any additional information should be easy to source if required. If you are purchasing a Custom Creations Cabin there is a good chance we can provide you with any additional required documentation relating to our Cabins.

Step 3

In the event you need a planning permit, you will need to follow and build your cabin in accordance with the guidelines and criteria provided by your local council. You may wish to submit your planning permit application through the 'Vic Smart' System as mentioned above under the 'Planning Permits' Heading.

If no planning permit is required you will need to arrange with your local Town Planner, a written document acknowledging that your cabin does not require a planning permit.

ALWAYS do your own research, check with your local council or a compliance specialist BEFORE installing ANY type of backyard cabin or building without written permission that a planning permit is not required.

Step 4

If no planning permit is required and you have written acknowledgement or you have received your planning permit and are building in accordance with the guidelines/criteria you can proceed.

The next step from here is working with your builder to confirm the costs involved with building, if your cabin meets the planning requirements and if the preposed building size and location is suitable. Once you have chosen a design, the next step is to collect the documentation to provide to a building surveyor, these items may include Architectural Drawings, Structural Engineering Drawings, Structural Engineering Certificate, Soil Test Results, BAL Fire Ratings, Energy Efficiency Reports, Floor plans, etc.

The simplest process from here is to appoint a compliance specialist (for a fee) to collate all of this information for you and arrange all of the professional services from a Building Surveyor, Soil Testing, Architect and Structural engineer, otherwise you can complete this process yourself if you have the time and know how. We have found from experience the cost and time required to complete this process yourself hasn't proven to be much better value than appointing a professional, however, that choice is yours!

Note: I am not going to go in depth here, but your building surveyor will want to know if you are applying to build with a Licensed Builder or as an Owner Builder. 'Owner Builder' installations are commonplace in the backyard cabin industry and is often reflected in the pricing (if you see a big variation in installation cost) as the cost of an unlicensed labourer is much less expensive than a licensed builder. When you apply for a permit as an owner builder the risk is with you the owner and you may be effectively appointing skilled workers not trained/licensed professionals. In the building industry an unlicensed builder is commonly referred to as a 'Chippy.'

See below a snippet from the VBA website. Click here for more information about becoming an owner-builder.

"Some builders or tradespeople may ask you to apply for an owner-builder certificate of consent so that you appear as an owner-builder on the building permit, even though they will be doing all the work. If you do this, it may put you at risk. The person may be unregistered or trying to avoid their legal responsibilities.

You are not an owner-builder if you intend to engage one tradesperson to do all the building work."

All Custom Creations Victoria authorised installers are licensed builders.

Step 5

Once your Building Surveyor has approved all your documentation, they will give you the go ahead to begin building, the Surveyor will let know at which progress points they need to come an assess your build.

For example:

The Surveyor may want to visit on the day the stump holes are dug to ensure they are deep enough to meet code before being filled with concrete, they may come back again once the subfloor structure is complete, then again once the build has been completed.

The surveyor may also provide you with a checklist before approving you to start building. They may request things like additional plans or documents and specifications.

Step 6

Once your build has been completed the surveyor will issue you with a Certificate of Occupancy and you are all done!

IMPORTANT: We would always recommend you seek professional guidance BEFORE building anything on your property. In Victoria there is a very small window of Building Permit Exemptions so be mindful of Victoria companies touting "No Permit Required". Always do your homework.

If you have any questions or would like more information on about the product range please feel welcome to reach out anytime. We offer DIY or professional installation in Victoria and New South Wales (WA & SA - DIY Kit Only).

Custom Creations


Melbourne, Australia

ABN: 92 645 471 370


P: 1300 51 64 51



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