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What is a Certificate of Occupancy?

You might have heard of the term “certificate of occupancy” if you are building, selling your home or converting a commercial building to a residential property. Previously known as the Certificate of Classification (CofC), Certificate of Occupancy (CofO) ensures the building is safe for the occupants and complies with the performance solutions of the Building Act 1975 (BA).

Practical Completion Stage Inspection

If you are building from the scratch, a practical completion stage inspection would be conducted by a building surveyor or a private certifier. Ensures the building is “fit to live in” and it is required to get a certificate of occupancy.

What does it involve?

  • The building is inspected to see if the features are working as expected.
  • It involves inspection of plumbing, electrical, fire safety and the building.
  • The build is completed as per the relevant state building laws, Australian standards and Building Code of Australia
  • Any defects are noted and provided to the builder so they can make the necessary changes

Once the certifier is satisfied that the building complies with the requirements of the Building Approval, they must provide the owner with a CofO.

What is a Certificate of Occupancy?

A Certificate of Occupancy is an important document and provides information about:

  • Class of Building - residential, commercial, or industrial building
  • How can the building be used - for living, working or mixed-use
  • Ongoing maintenance requirements
  • Fire safety
  • Special requirements

From 1 October 2020, the Certificate of Classification has been amended and renamed the Certificate of Occupancy. It can also be used as the Interim Certificate of Occupancy to fulfill the requirements under section 104 of the BA. Any certificate of classification issued before 1 October 2020 that is still in force, is taken to be a certificate of occupancy from 1 October 2020.

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Who needs a Certificate of Occupancy?

Under the Building Act, any building that was built after 1 April 1976 should have a Certificate of Occupancy (previously known as Certificate of Classification) with its building approval.

So whether you are building a new house, buying a new home, changing ownership or converting the property ( for example, residential to commercial use), a certificate of occupancy is required.

Note : This doesn't apply to buildings classified as class 1a (single dwelling - detached houses, row houses,villa units) and class 10 ( non-habitable buildings like carport, shed, garage)

Where to display a Certificate of Occupancy?

Under the Building Act 1975, a certificate of occupancy should be displayed before the building can be used or occupied:

  • If the building is class 1b to 9
  • For buildings completed after 1 July 1997

The certificate should be displayed as near as practical to the main entrance of the building.

  • For buildings with more than one entrance, it should be displayed at the entrance that emergency services would use and at the building’s fire indicator panel
  • A CofO should be securely placed in a location visible to the authorised officers and building occupants
  • Made of durable materials and weatherproof materials if they are located outside the building
  • If displayed electronically, should be connected to a backup power supply and the CofO must be clearly displayed

Why is a Certificate of Occupancy important?

A certificate of occupancy shows that the building is safe for the occupants. It is compliant with the building codes and suitable for living or working.

Furthermore, you are required to have a CofO by law. Failure to comply with the requirements can result in a financial penalty. Lastly, if you are planning to sell or rent out your property, a CofO is proof that your property is inspected as per the BA. That can act as a major factor to attract potential tenants or buyers.


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