BA exemption self-check

Some projects do not need building approval if they comply with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

Start your self-check

General exemption rules for building work

To be exempt from building approval, you must not affect:

The erection of the structure must not involve handling asbestos or disturbing friable asbestos.

Specific exemption rules

As well as checking the general rules, you must check the criteria specific to your project.

Below is a list of some kinds of building that may be exempt from needing building approval if it meets certain requirements. Use these examples as a guide, but always read the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

Carports, pergolas and shade structures

Carports, pergolas and shade structures are classified as small open structures.

A carport, pergola or shade structures does not need building approval if:

  • it has no walls
  • it is not more than 3 metres above ground
  • the floor level is not more than 1 metre above ground
  • the frame does not have an unsupported span (including any cantilever) of more than 4 metres
  • the roof (including a sail or sail-like element) plan area is not more than 25m²
  • all other general rules are met

The proposed structure must comply with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

Check carport, pergola and shade structure development approval exemptions.

Courtyard walls

A courtyard wall (or retaining wall) may be exempt from requiring building approval if it is below 1.2 metres in height. Site cuts in relation to the wall, placement of the wall on the property and/or other factors may require a development approval for the wall.

Demolition

The demolition is exempt from building approval if:

  • the building being demolished would be exempt from building approval if it was to be constructed today
  • all other general rules are met

The demolition must comply with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

Check demolition development approval exemptions.

Dish antennas

Dish antennas or satellite dishes do not need building approval if:

  • it is a class 10b building maximum height of 6m (excluding any part in ground or part of another building or used for a purpose other than supporting assembly or aerial)
  • no licence, notice, certifier, plans, inspections, certificates, design or construction standards are required under the Building Act 2004
  • all other general rules are met

The proposed satellite dish must comply with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

Check dish antenna development approval exemptions.

Driveways

Driveways that are built on the ground, do not span above the ground, and are not part of a building are not regulated by building approval legislation.

Find out more about driveway approvals.

Check driveway development approval exemptions.

External doors and windows

External door, wall and window alterations do not need building approval if:

The proposed alteration must comply with the relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

Check external doors, walls and windows development approval exemptions.

Fences and freestanding walls

A fence or freestanding wall does not need building approval if it:

  • is not forming an integral part of a required enclosure for a swimming pool
  • is not more than 1.8m above ground
  • is not more than 2m above ground:
    • no masonry or concrete components (other than cement sheet products) are more than 1.8m above ground
  • is not part of a roofed building or retaining wall
  • is not more than 3m above ground:
    • no masonry or concrete components (other than cement sheet products) are more than 1.8m above ground

The pool fence must comply with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

Fence ownership and costs

The ACT Government does not contribute to the cost of building or maintaining fences. All costs are the responsibility of the private property owner.

All front fences including fences to open space are built and maintained at the cost of the owner. Private property owners who share side or rear fences are each responsible for half the cost and maintenance of a basic urban fence.

The basic urban fence is 1.5m high and made of hardwood palings. Other fence types can be erected if allowed and neighbours agree on the design and cost beforehand.

The Common Boundaries Act 1981 specifies general requirements and dispute resolution mechanisms for fences.

Also see BA exemption details for open space boundary fences and pool fencing and barriers.

Check fence and freestanding wall development approval exemptions.

Garages, sheds and gazebos

A garage, greenhouse, storeroom, conservatory, cubby house, gazebo, outbuilding, shed, studio, stables, or workshop does not need building approval if it complies with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

At a glance, the proposed structure does not need building approval if:

  • it is not more than 3m above ground
  • the floor level is not more than 1m above ground
  • the frame does not have an unsupported span (including any cantilever) of more than 4m
  • the roof (including a sail or sail-like element) plan area is not more than 25m2
  • all other general rules are met

Check garage, shed and gazebo development approval exemptions.

Heating, cooling and solar PV installations

The installation does not need building approval if:

  • it is for a class 1 or class 10a building only
  • an air-conditioning unit is involved, it is not the main source of ventilation for the room or building where it is installed
  • all other general rules are met

The proposed installation must comply with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

Note, internal fireplaces DO require building approval.

Check heating, cooling and solar PV installation development approval exemptions.

Home business

Any new buildings or structures (including additions and alterations) for your home business may need building approval.

Check the general exemption rules.

Check home business development approval exemptions.

Internal alterations

Certain internal alterations do not require building approval if they comply with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

At a glance, the proposed internal alterations do not need building approval if:

  • a certificate of occupancy or other certificate under the Building Act 2004, part 5, has been issued for the building
  • there is no change the building class under the Building Code
  • the exterior is not affected
  • the interior structural integrity of the building is not affected
  • a heating appliance is not affected
  • no licence, notice, certifier, plans, inspections, certificates, design or construction standards are required under the Building Act 2004
  • all other general rules are met

Check internal alteration development approval exemptions.

Landscape gardening

Landscape gardening does not need building approval if:

  • it is not in relation to buildings or structures as defined in the Building Act 2004
  • no licence, notice, certifier, plans, inspections, certificates, design or construction standards are required under the Building Act 2004
  • all other general rules are met

The proposed landscape gardening must comply with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

Check landscape gardening development approval exemptions.

Letterboxes and barbecues

Letterboxes and barbecues do not need building approval if:

  • it is a letterbox, barbecue or similar structure
  • is not more than 1.8m above ground
  • the plan area is not larger than 2m²
  • no licence, notice, certifier, plans, inspections, certificates, design or construction standards are required under the Building Act 2004
  • all other general rules are met

The proposed letterbox or barbecue must comply with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

Check letterbox and barbecue development approval exemptions.

Maintenance

Maintenance does not need building approval if:

  • the maintenance work is not carried out to a structural element of the building, or is not building work as defined in the Building Act 2004 (such as cosmetic work including painting)
  • it involves the handling of bonded asbestos and providing that the work complies with the asbestos handling requirements of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011
  • all other general rules are met

Some maintenance may be considered internal and external alterations, so check the other categories on this page.

The proposed maintenance must comply with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

Check maintenance development approval exemptions.

Mast antennas

Mast antennas are grouped as class 10b buildings.

Mast antennas and support structures do not need building approval if:

  • the antenna is no higher than 6 metres above ground level
  • all other general rules are met

The proposed mast antenna must comply with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

Check mast antenna development approval exemptions.

Open space boundary fences

Boundary fences are usually between leased and unleased land, for example:

  • at the rear of land bordering on nature reserve
  • between parklands and residential blocks
  • between pedestrian laneways and residential blocks
  • at the side boundaries of corner blocks

Open space boundary fences do not need building approval if it:

  • is not forming an integral part of a required enclosure for a swimming pool
  • is not more than 1.8m above ground
  • is not more than 2m above ground if:
    • no masonry or concrete components (other than cement sheet products) are more than 1.8m above ground
    • is not part of a roofed building or retaining wall
  • is not more than 3m above ground if:
    • no masonry or concrete components (other than cement sheet products) are more than 1.8m above ground
    • it complies with the exempt building code
  • uses AS 2700 permitted fence colours
  • no licence, notice, certifier, plans, inspections, certificates, design or construction standards are required under the Building Act 2004
  • all other general rules are met

The proposed open space boundary fence must comply with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

Also see BA exemption details for fences and freestanding walls.

Check open space boundary fence development approval exemptions.

Unroofed decks, patios and terraces

Unroofed decks, patios and terraces do not need building approval if:

  • it has no walls
  • the highest point of the structure is not more than 3m off the ground
  • the floor level is not more than 1m above ground
  • the frame does not have an unsupported span (including any cantilever) of more than 4m
  • all other general rules are met

The proposed unroofed deck, patio or terrace must comply with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

Also see BA exemption details for carports, pergolas and shade structures.

Check unroofed deck, patio and terrace development approval exemptions.

Unroofed pergolas and arbours

Unroofed pergolas and arbours do not need building approval if:

  • it has no walls
  • is not more than 3m above ground
  • the floor level is not more than 1m above ground
  • the frame does not have an unsupported span (including any cantilever) of more than 4m
  • no licence, notice, certifier, plans, inspections, certificates, design or construction standards are required under the Building Act 2004
  • all other general rules are met

The proposed unroofed pergola or arbour must comply with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

Check unroofed pergola and arbour development approval exemptions.

Ponds

Ponds do not need building approval if:

  • it is not for, or not used for, swimming, wading or bathing
  • the maximum water depth is not more than 1.2m
  • all other general rules are met
  • no licence, notice, certifier, plans, inspections, certificates, design or construction standards are required under the Building Act 2004

The proposed pond must comply with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

Check pond development approval exemptions.

Pool fencing and barriers

Pool fences or barriers do not need building approval if:

  • it complies with the building code
  • it is constructed in a proper and skilful way
  • it is inspected and certified as compliant with the Building Act 2004 (other than part 3) by a certifier under that Act
  • no licence or notice is required under the Building Act 2004, however design and construction standards as well as inspection and certification requirements apply

The proposed pool fencing or barrier must comply with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

Check pool fencing and barrier development approval exemptions.

Refinishing external appearance

Building approval is still required for refinishing certain exterior items to buildings or structures.

Examples of work requiring building approval include:

  • replacing a roof
  • changing a lightweight cladding system from one type of system to another

Examples of work not requiring building approval include:

  • replacing a roof tile
  • applying render over an existing wall system (such as brick) provided that weepholes are not blocked, or that the building's compliance with the building code is not reduced below minimum requirements in some other way
  • adding lightweight fixtures to the building that do not affect the building's compliance with the building code, examples include security screens, cameras, lights, and taps provided that any other requirements under the Electrical Safety Act 1971 and the Water and Sewerage Act 2000 are met
  • Adding a lightweight decorative trim or feature that does not reduce the building's compliance with the building code to below minimum requirements

Find out more in the Building Act 2004.

Check refinishing external appearance development approval exemptions.

Retaining walls

A retaining wall does not need building approval if:

  • it is not more than 1.2m high when measured from any point at the top of retaining wall to lowest adjacent ground level
  • it is up to 1.5m high when measured from any point at top of retaining wall to lowest adjacent ground level, it:
    • complies with the exempt building code
    • complies with the building code
    • is constructed in a proper and skilful way
  • no licence, notice, certifier, plans, inspections, certificates, design or construction standards are required under the Building Act 2004, except if more than 1.2m high, design and construction standards do apply
  • all other general rules are met

The proposed retaining wall must comply with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

Check retaining wall development approval exemptions.

Second building in clearance area

Building approval exemptions are not dependant on the number of buildings or structures located in boundary clearance areas.

The proposed building or structure must comply with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

Check second building in clearance area development approval exemptions.

Single dwellings

There are no building approval exemptions for detached houses (defined as class 1 buildings).

Check single dwelling development approval exemptions.

Skylights

Skylights do not need building approval if:

The proposed skylight must comply with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

Check skylight development approval exemptions.

Swimming pools

For swimming pools, building approval, certifier, plans, inspections, certificates, design and construction standards are required under the Building Act 2004 and apply to the initial erection or assembly of all swimming pools that can hold water deeper than 300mm.

A swimming pool does not need building approval if:

  • it can hold water no deeper than 300mm

After you have received building approval for initial assembly of the swimming pool, the reassembly or taking apart the reservoir of the demountable pool, excluding fencing or barriers, is exempt from building approval if:

  • its water reservoir can be taken apart and assembled by hand or with hand tools without damaging the pool's components
  • pool fencing and barriers required under Building Act 2004 to restrict access of young children to pool and immediate pool surrounds are in place before the pool is able to hold water, and the arrangement of the pool, fencing and barriers is consistent with the certificate of occupancy and use granted for them under that Act
  • it will not affect the structural integrity of any part of a building for which a certificate of occupancy or other certificate under the Building Act 2004, part 5, has been issued
  • all other general rules are met

The proposed swimming pool must comply with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1 and Section 6.

Check swimming pool development approval exemptions.

Water tanks

Water tanks (classified as class 10b buildings) do not need building approval if:

  • the capacity is not more than 20kL
  • it is not more than 2.4m above ground
  • all other general rules are met

The proposed water tank must comply with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.

Check water tank development approval exemptions.

Find out more in Rainwater tanks: guidelines for residential properties in Canberra (3.6 MB).

Remember: Even if your project is exempt from building approval, you may require other approvals, including for plumbing, gasfitting and electrical works, and/or development approval.

Building work on National land

All Building work on National land is exempt from requiring building approval. Any building works undertaken by, or on behalf of, the Commonwealth of Australia, whether undertaken on National land or not, are exempt from requiring Building Approval. The ACTmapi Territory Plan overlay is useful for identifying whether land is National land or Designated land.

Unless a separate exemption applies, building work on designated land requires building approval. Some parcels of land are categorised as both National land and Designated land. Building work undertaken on land categorised as both National land and Designated land does not require building approval.

More information

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If you are still unsure whether your building work is exempt from needing building approval, contact a building certifier.