Is building without permit a criminal offence

Discussion in 'Renovation & Home Improvement' started by Tomodachi, 17th Dec, 2019.

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  1. Tomodachi

    Tomodachi Well-Known Member

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    Hi all

    I got a call from the council who came to my property to look search and inspect today.

    He went and look around as there was concern about an unoccupied 2BR bungalow. My mom used to live there but had moved out. It has a working kitchen and shower.

    The bungalow was built more than 30 years ago. It's definitely there when we bought it. We did some cosmetic work to it ( floating floor, windows furnishing, replaced cabinets, shower screen, toilet and repaired plaster in 1 room)

    We also YouTube's and extend the roof a bit (half a meter out, about 3m long) and build a wooden deck.

    The guy got very angry because we didn't tell him about the decks and roofing, which is not cosmetics. It slipped my mind, I have been very stressed. He said anything you say will be used against you in the court of law.

    ? I don't understand ? I forgot to include some works? It was very casual conservation and honestly I was dying because I haven't slept for a very long time, I barely remember what was said. How much troubles am I in?

    I did some online research that decking and roof stuff requires a building permit which I wish I knew about but honestly I thought it was a home project, we were copying the people on YouTube's

    What's the worst that's going to happen? Who can I ask for advice?

    Please help me

    Thank you
     
  2. Terry_w

    Terry_w Lawyer, Tax Adviser and Mortgage broker Business Member

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    see a lawyer

    Why did you let him into your premises?
     
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  3. Tomodachi

    Tomodachi Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Terry for replying! He said he is from the council and he needs to do it as the concerns was raised by the MFB who controlled a fire that broke out in my home last week. I didn't know I could refuse?
     
  4. Terry_w

    Terry_w Lawyer, Tax Adviser and Mortgage broker Business Member

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    The first thing to do would be to politely ask if you are required to allow access and if so on what basis. Then perhaps you could request time to seek legal advice.

    This is what a client of mine did when running an illegal boarding house. Council turned up and had the authority to enter, but he delayed them for a day.
     
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  5. Tomodachi

    Tomodachi Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Terry

    I have not received any fines or notices yet. The councilman did not state explicitly that there will be legal action against us. Should we wait for a documents before consulting a lawyer?
     
  6. Terry_w

    Terry_w Lawyer, Tax Adviser and Mortgage broker Business Member

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    That is up to you. What if the council person comes back or asks for further information?
     
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  7. bamp

    bamp Well-Known Member

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    Is anyone living there at the moment? Which council are you in?

    Regardless i think the worst is they make you tear down the illegal portions of your granny flat. Is the granny flat approved?
     
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  8. Whiz

    Whiz Well-Known Member

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    It is understandable that you would permit the council officer to enter the property given you had no reason to believe you had done anything wrong.
    Don't panic! I know it would be a worry if the council guy says that
    'what you say will be used in a court of law against you!'

    I believe you have time to sort this out.
    I expect that council will send you a 'please explain' letter, called a 'Show Cause' letter.
    I believe if you do what council requires, then you will be ok.
    If you don't do what council requires, then I would expect that fines may be imposed.

    I am going through a somewhat similar experience at the moment and this is what has happened for me. It might be similar for you:

    1. Shortly after the council officer attended the property, I was sent a 'Show Cause' notice from council for unapproved building works (in my case, changes that were made before I bought the property)
    2. I had approx 30 days to reply to this 'Show Cause' notice.
    3. After speaking to various knowledgable people (builder, private certifier and building designer) I understood that I needed to apply for restrospective building approval.
    4. I replied to council (before the deadline) giving evidence of the actions I was taking to get the retrospective building approval, and requested a time extension, which was granted.
    5. I am currently going through the process of getting plans drawn up, and any improvements/changes made so that the structure satisfies all that is needed to get building approval.
    6. Assuming approval is granted, I don't believe council will take any legal action.

    So you too may have to try to get a restrospective building approval.
    If in the end the changes you made aren't allowed by council (eg. too close to the neighbour; or aren't of the right building standard), then the changes would likely need to be removed.

    I suggest you call up a couple of building certifiers and ask what the process would be to get retrospective building approval.
    If the cost of getting the changes approved is too great (or not possible), it might be cheaper/easier to remove the unapproved structures, and then advise council of that.

    The process and what happens will likely depend on what council area your property is in.
    I wouldn't be making any changes until you get a notification from Council on what exactly the issue is.
     
    Last edited: 17th Dec, 2019
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  9. Tomodachi

    Tomodachi Well-Known Member

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    I'm with brimbank council
    The whole premise is empty at the moment
     
    Last edited: 17th Dec, 2019
  10. Tomodachi

    Tomodachi Well-Known Member

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    Thank you! I'm definitely worried because the meeting went not so well. But I think I'm going to wait for further information. The improvement I made was very minor, both less than 3m2. I'm going to remove them. I definitely think there won't be legal actions unIess I receive something in writing.
    I'm going to call up the lawyers tomorrow though.
     
  11. bamp

    bamp Well-Known Member

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    Great response Whiz, how much is the plans and building approval costing you?

    As I might have to do something similar.
     
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  12. Paul@PFI

    [email protected] Tax Accounting + SMSF Business Plus Member

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    Councils have a range of powers available. Completing unauthorised works is not a crime ie a criminal offence. But it may offend council regs and laws and state law.

    But it may be a matter they can impose orders on and issue penalties, They can also instruct demolition. Defying these notices escalates matters to the state court ie land & environment court etc Their notices wont give you much time to act. Or likely any choices. Hence the need to negotiate it first since council may agree to a more flexible fix than any court later will and council doesnt want the complexity.

    I would be asking the council dude (THROUGH A SOLICITOR) if you submit plans and apply for approval for the deck. However you may find that the original structure was illegally built and is unapproved. A solicitor may recommend a search of councils approvals to determine if it was originally approved.
     
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  13. Whiz

    Whiz Well-Known Member

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    @[email protected] - By 'original structure' I assume you are referring to the granny flat itself?

    @Tomodachi - I wouldn't be pulling anything down until you get further information from council.

    @bamp - costs so far -
    1. Building designer drawing up plans - $650
    2. Private certifier - $1115 - extra costs will be incurred if more than one inspection needed.
    3. Additional costs for bringing the structure up to standard - eg. it needs a gutter.
     
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  14. Angel

    Angel Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    You will receive his report in a few days with the info you require to take the next steps. In the meantime you can get a Council search of the property to find out exactly what is legal and what has not been approved - ie what building works do not show up on the Council records for this property.
     
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  15. Paul@PFI

    [email protected] Tax Accounting + SMSF Business Plus Member

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    Yes - I refer to the original GF. It may have been an unapproved dwelling and if you didnt check council approvals prior to acquisition you may still be told its illegal. Council remedy is typically to order demolition and reinstatement of the land. Rarely they may permit re-certifying it. Thats where a lawyer may help with arguing the point and reaching compromise. Its harsh but that why searches should be made by all buyers. Legal advice at time of contract may have identified the issue at which time you may argue the dwelling has no value and impacts value and haggle on a lesser price. Hopefully it was an approved improvement.
     
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  16. bamp

    bamp Well-Known Member

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    Yeah high chance any genuine granny flat becomes illegal the moment the "granny" no longer resides there.

    As for how to make it legal, i believe you only need to make it no longer a dwelling, which could be achieved by a few different ways, rather than total demolition, however it would really depend on the specific council and how aggravated they are by the situation.
     
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  17. Joynz

    Joynz Well-Known Member

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    That’s the case for something you build now in Victoria (I.e. needs to accommodate a supported person).

    However if the backyard unit was built decades ago, it could very well be OK if it complied with requirements back then.
     
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  18. Beano

    Beano Well-Known Member

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    Like if it was built before 1788 :)
     
  19. Joynz

    Joynz Well-Known Member

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    I mean before the requirement in Victoria to remove the DPU once the person no longer needs it.

    Victoria has lots of old ‘granny flats’ that can stay on the property because they are legacy builds...I.e. built under previous regs. Obviously an addition without a permit doesn’t come under that practice!
     
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  20. robboat

    robboat Well-Known Member

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    Currently working through a council action for "illegal" building works.
    They use that term for any sort of construction that has not been approved or has no apparent paperwork.
    If you refuse the council then the legal system will force you to comply...:eek::eek:

    They will send a letter specifying the "illegal" construction.
    Then it up to you to prove that it is all OK and perhaps get retrospective approval - make sure you have plans, paper and proof!
    Otherwise it is time to do a little deconstruction to meet council approval.

    In my case I will get a carport approved retrospectively and demolish part of a garage cover extension to make a outdoor area. The main concern is too much covered area on the block... :(
     
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