Responsibilities of an owner builder | Queensland Building and Construction Commission

If you do the wrong thing you can be:

  • fined
  • prosecuted
  • have your owner builder permit cancelled (note you can't reapply for another permit within 6 years)
  • issued with an enforcement order by your local council to remove or dismantle any unapproved building works.

Get your permit before you start work

You need to apply for an owner builder permit before you start any work on site.

If you carry out owner builder work without a permit we may fine you.

If you've already started

If you've started carrying out owner builder work without a permit, you should immediately apply for a permit for the work yet to be carried out.

When you complete the form you will need to say what work you've already done as well as the work you plan to do. If you've already completed more than $11,000 of work (see About owner building) you will have to send us a Owner builder—work already completed application (PDF, 74.91KB) as well. (Note — you will be fined for carrying out unlawful building work).

Note that if you have already done some owner builder work and need that work certified you will have to ask us to send you a letter so you can apply to your local council for development approval.

If you've already completed the work

We can't issue a permit once the owner builder work is done, but you can ask us to send you a letter so you can apply to your local council for development approval.

The letter also informs your assessment manager that no insurance premium is payable for the work. A QBCC-licensed certifier can fulfil this function.

You will also have to pay a fine — by submitting the work already completed application you are declaring that you have unlawfully performed building work.

Get your approvals before you start work

Check your local council guidelines so you can have the work approved before you start. You must have work approved even before you start earthworks.

Most significant building projects will need plans and specifications and in many cases these will need to be approved by your local council and certified at various stages. The certifier cannot grant the approval until we issue your owner builder permit and all your building work complies with relevant planning rules and building codes.

If you need to change your design or plans you must check with your certifier to find out if you need to amend any documents with your local council.

Your owner builder work is considered complete once you receive a final certificate from your certifier.

Find a local certifier

Follow the conditions of your permit

You must follow the conditions outlined on your owner builder permit.

You must only carry out work covered in the permit

You must make sure your permit application lists all the work you want to do as an owner builder. If you do any work not identified in your permit you may be breaking the law and you may be:

  • fined
  • prosecuted
  • have your owner builder permit cancelled (you can't reapply for another permit within 6 years).

If your work plans change you need to let us know by submitting an Owner builder—amend existing permit (PDF, 74.91KB).

You must only engage licenced contractors to carry out building work.

You must hire contractors with the relevant QBCC contractor's licence.

Unless you hold the appropriate occupational licence you cannot carry out any:

  • plumbing
  • drainage
  • gasfitting
  • termite management (chemical).

You are permitted to do up to $1100 of work without an appropriate occupational licence for:

  • fire protection work
  • mechanical services work.

If you do not have the appropriate occupational licence you must hire a licenced contractor to do this work. You can be fined if you perform the work personally.  

You can't remove more than 10m2 of asbestos unless you have the appropriate asbestos removal licence. 

Workplace Health and Safety fines apply.

Display an owner builder sign

Before starting work you must display a sign on your site to show that you are an owner builder. If you don't do this you might be fined.

The sign must:

  • be clearly visible from the street
  • show your owner builder permit number
  • be made of weatherproof material
  • be at least half a square metre in size
  • be printed in letters at least 50mm high.

Supervise your site

You must supervise and coordinate contractors on site, maintain quality control, oversee work standards and uphold safe work practices.

As an owner builder you are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of all occupants, visitors and workers on site. You can do this by complying with workplace health and safety laws and ensuring asbestos risks are managed according to relevant asbestos legislation

If your property contains asbestos or was built before 1990 you must complete an Asbestos General Awareness course through a Registered Training Organisation. We may ask you to supply a copy of your course completion certificate with 2 days' notice.

Workplace Health and Safety may fine you if you don't have the right certificates.

Use the right contracts

It's important that you have a written agreement with your sub-contractors. Our commercial subcontract contains all the clauses you need. Hire a lawyer to check your contracts.

If you choose to create your own agreement make sure it includes:

  • the name and licence number of the builder/trade contractor
  • the address of the land where the building work is to be carried out
  • the scope of the building work
  • your requirements for quality and finish (e.g. type and number of coats of paint)
  • the start and finish dates and any grounds for time extensions
  • the amount to be paid for the contracted work (inclusive of GST), including details of the amount and timing of payments
  • details of any deposit and progress payments (where appropriate) in addition to the final payment.

To understand your contractual rights and responsibilities as an owner builder please refer to our Contractual obligations, demerit points and bans (PDF 4.12MB) booklet.

Deal with problems on site

Deal with problems as soon as they come up.

Defective work

If you get into a dispute with your contractor over defective work we may be able to help you reach a solution via our dispute resolution service.

You can also access dispute resolution services through the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) or you can seek independent legal advice.

Payment and contract issues

If you and your contractor disagree about payment or any contract conditions you should get legal advice.
You must:

  • pay your contractors and suppliers in full when they give you their bill or provide a payment schedule showing when you will pay the bill (It is an offence to refuse to provide a payment schedule)
  • pay the bill or provide the payment schedule within the time specified in your contract or 15 business days after receiving a payment claim.

If you don't do this your subcontractors and suppliers can apply for the matter to be adjudicated (where an adjudicator decides on rights and responsibilities of each party) and you will have to pay the amount decided by that process. You may also be fined under the Building Industry Fairness Act 2017.

Last reviewed: 6 May 2024 Last published: 6 May 2024
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