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How Building and Planning Law Works

Asides from having the keys and the landlord’s permission, there are also legal requirements dictating whether you can use a building and what you can use it for. Before using a building, you need to make sure you’re doing so legally.

These laws are laid out in state planning and development laws, and interpreted and applied by local councils. State laws are heavily influenced by the Building Code of Australia, as well as federal laws around disability access and environmental law. They produce an extremely complex, and somewhat faulted, framework dictating how, and under what conditions, a building can be used.

The purpose of planning and development law is to:

  • Provide a system whereby the use of a building, the construction of a new building or adaptation of a building can be monitored and controlled.
  • Make sure buildings are built and used safely.
  • Reduce the risk of fire and other hazards.
  • Ensure disability access is provided.
  • Ensure buildings have a minimum set of environmental impact measurements.
  • Allow Councils to ensure buildings are used for purposes suitable to their location – for instance, preventing a lead smelting factory from being built next to a hospital, or a bar being built next to a primary school.

The key people who decide how those laws might apply to a building you’re accessing are local council building certifiers and planning officials. They are given this role under state law so it can vary substantially from state to state or council to council.