Occupation Certificates in NSW

Occupation Certificate
Updated: March 14, 2024
First Published: March 14, 2024

An Occupation Certificate confirms that a building complies with applicable building codes, zoning regulations, and other relevant laws and regulations. It also certifies that a building has been constructed in accordance with approved plans.

Obtaining an Occupation Certificate is the last step in the formal development approval and construction process. It is official documentation that confirms the building is legally compliant and suitable for occupation or use.

Who Issues an Occupation Certificate?

An Occupation Certified is issued by the local council or a private certifier.

How to Obtain an Occupation Certificate

The process for obtaining an occupation certificate usually includes:

  1. Inspections and Compliance Checks: The local building authority or council will conduct inspections to verify that the construction work complies with the approved plans and regulations. This may involve multiple inspections at different stages of the project.
  2. Application Submission: After the construction work is complete and all necessary inspections have been passed, you can submit an application for an occupation certificate to the local building authority or council.
  3. Documentation: Along with the application form, you’ll usually need to provide supporting documentation, such as:
    • Copies of approved building plans and permits.
    • Certificates of compliance from licensed professionals (e.g., structural engineers, electricians, plumbers) confirming that their work meets relevant standards.
    • Any other documents required by the local building authority or council.
  4. Payment of Fees: There may be fees associated with the application for an occupation certificate.
  5. Review and Assessment: The local building authority or council will review your application and supporting documentation to ensure compliance with all applicable regulations and standards.
  6. Issuance of Certificate: If the application is approved, the local building authority or council will issue the occupation certificate.

What if a Building is Not Approved?

When a property does not have an Occupation Certificate, it usually means that the construction or renovation work hasn’t been completed to the satisfaction of the the local council. 

In this situation, the council may take several actions:

  1. Stop Work Orders: The council may issue a stop-work order. This means further construction or renovation activities must cease until the issues are fixed and the necessary certificates are obtained.
  2. Penalties and Fines: There may be fines imposed on the property owner or the construction company responsible for the work.
  3. Legal Action: In extreme cases or if the issues persist, the council may take legal action against the property owner or the construction company. This could involve court proceedings and potential enforcement actions to compel compliance with building regulations.
  4. Rectification Notices: The council may issue notices requiring specific actions to rectify the deficiencies and bring the property into compliance with building codes. Failure to comply with these notices can lead to further penalties or legal action.
  5. Demolition Orders: In cases where the building poses significant safety risks or cannot be brought into compliance, the council may issue a demolition order requiring the property to be demolished.

What is a Building Information Certificate?

If the property does not have an Occupation Certificate, the owner may wish to obtain a Building Information Certificate (BIC). A Building Information Certificate prevents council from taking action against the owner of the property for an unauthorised structure on the land: https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/transaction/apply-online-building-information-certificate

It is not possible to obtain development consent or a construction certificate for a building that has already been erected, so a Building Information Certificate is generally the only option available to ‘regularise’ building work that has been carried out unlawfully.

A Building Information Certificate may apply to a part of or the whole of a structure. For example, a Building Information Certificate can apply to a whole house if its construction was not approved. Or the certificate could apply to only the carport if the original house was approved, but the carport later added illegally.

The certificate ensures the whole or part of the building covered by the certificate won’t be subject to any regulatory action by the local council for 7 years.

Purchasing Property in NSW

It is up to the purchaser to satisfy themselves as to the condition of the property they are buying. Often a contract does not include a copy of the Occupation Certificate or Building Information Certificate. Buyers therefore need to make enquiries to check if the structures on the land are approved. We usually ask the vendor’s solicitor or conveyancer whether the owner has an Occupation Certificate. However, a buyer can also ask the local council if a house or other structure is approved.

Sellers are required to inform a buyer if the structures on the land are not approved. This means, if a property does not have an Occupation Certificate or a Building Information Certificate, the seller should disclose this in the terms of the contract. 


An Occupation Certificate confirms a building has been constructed in a safe and legal manner. Obtaining an Occupation Certificate is usually the last stage in the construction/development process.

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This article is intended to be general information only and is not legal advice. You should obtain specialist advice based on your specific circumstances before taking any action concerning the matters discussed in this article. The content is current at the date of publication.
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