Can I sell my house without complete building approvals? Finger crossing is not a strategy
By Amanda Scali

12/01/2017 12:00am

Can I sell my house without complete building approvals? Finger crossing is not a strategy

If you’ve lived in one house for some years you’ve probably made some much-appreciated improvements to your property, like building a pergola, shed or carport, so time to sell means time to ask, can I sell my house without complete building approvals?

To save money and because you’re handy you might have built the new structure yourself, or had your chippie mate do the tricky stuff before you finished off the job.

Did you ever stop to think that you might require council building approvals to carry out the work?

Probably not and, so long as no-one was injured while using the structure, that may not have been an issue, but it does represent a problem now that you want to sell up.

Can I sell my house without complete building approvals?

If you don’t have building approval for all the structures and work on your property, you’re not alone.

In September 2011, ‘Holdfast Bay development services manager Anthony Marroncelli said about 5 per cent of the council's development applications were retrospective, for unauthorised work already carried out.’ (The Advertiser)

Any unapproved structures will show up when searches are done and the Form 1 is completed during the sale process.

It’s not the end of the world, you will still be able to sell your house, but not without incurring expense and negotiating some red tape.

While in some cases a buyer may accept an unapproved building, ‘any illegal building, including additions and alterations, will become [their] legal responsibility if [they] buy the property’ (

For this reason, it is more likely that the buyer will ask you to obtain the necessary approvals, which could delay settlement, and as you can see, this is why it is so important to have asked, can I sell my house without complete building approvals.

Consequences and remedies of incomplete building approvals when selling

At best you will be required to submit the relevant applications, pay the applicable fees and wait for approval to be granted.

There is, however, a possibility that you may be fined for not applying for building approval in the first place.

Hindsight is always 20/20; as points out, ‘Any cost for the [building] permit is likely to pale in comparison to any fines issued for non-compliance’.

At worst, if your unapproved structure does not meet building code requirements, your local council may require you to demolish it.

This will have a negative impact on your selling price, necessitate restoration of the area from which the structure is removed, cost you further time and may even lead to termination of the contract of sale.

Get it sorted before you sell

Rather than playing catch-up, it’s far easier to deal with the issue of non-complying buildings before you put your house on the market.

Consult your local council for advice on the best way to ensure that your property’s records will be in good shape by the time searches are undertaken during the sale process.

During their many years’ of collective experience, McGrath Real Estate’s agents have dealt with all manner of speed bumps on the road to selling our clients’ homes.

You can be sure we will be there to support you through the sale process and to help you resolve any problems that may arise along the way.