By Karlo Hendriksz
Karlo HendrikszThere are several ways in which a body corporate, zoning schemes (town planning) and the submission of building plans are linked. Both the individual unit owners and the elected representatives of a body corporate (or home owners’ association) should take the following into consideration, and more.

The following are the two basic scenarios:

1) A new block of flats, mixed-use development or gated village is planned and eventually approved by Council. Such an approval is usually subject to conditions. 
2) A unit owner or body corporate wants to add or make changes to their unit, or the use of a unit.
The first scenario is usually subject to either a rezoning application or making use of the existing zoning of a property and therefore only submitting building plans is necessary.

The second scenario is where most unnecessary matters arise. I approached Council to find out what the most typical problems are that they face with the submission of building plans by unit owners. Most developers press for the maximum density, and therefore intend to develop to the maximum coverage, bulk, height, building lines, permissible habitable rooms, parking requirements, and so on. Making internal changes (like creating an open-plan kitchen) is usually relatively straightforward. But making additions may require a planning application to amend conditions of approval, Site Development Plans, regulation departures (i.e. coverage, bulk), and a number of other possible matters.

The main problems experienced when unit owners submit plans are:

  • The unit owner doesn’t obtain the consent of the body corporate. Council will not even look at an application without their written consent.
  • In many cases, a body corporate is not sure of their responsibilities; what they should, can or can’t do.
  • Some of the required documents (application forms, power of attorney, title deeds, sometimes a conveyancer certificate, etc.), authorisations and engineering inputs (load bearing for blocks of flats) are often not submitted with the application.

If you are unsure of the requirements, then the following will save you a lot of hassle, frustration, time and money:

  • Often, unit owners employ an architect to attend to the drawings only, and then try to submit their plans themselves. Please go to Council beforehand and speak to all the relevant Council officials to get their guidance and input on the process. Alternatively, you can also approach a “plan walker”.
  • Both the unit owners and the body corporate should attend at least a basic course relating to the management of a body corporate or home owners’ association. Paddocks provides these courses, easy manuals and great advice for beginners and up-and-coming experts.

Following this basic advice will make a huge difference to you, your body corporate and the speed in which Council will eventually assess your application. Get the right advice from the right professionals and Council officials. Paying a little more for the correct professional, or taking that extra time to get educated, will prove to be worth every cent. Your home is probably your biggest investment, so make sure it stays secure.

Article reference: Paddocks Press: Volume 6, Issue 10, Page 2

Karlo Hendriksz is a town planner.

This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution license