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The Ultimate 2021 Guide to Victorian Backyard Cabin Permits

You are probably here today because you are considering building a backyard cabin in Victoria and why wouldn't you! Backyard Cabins, Granny Flats and backyard pods are a great way to extend your living space, add value to your property or build that perfect home office or gym right in your backyard.

While building a backyard cabin in Victoria is fairly straight forward (especially one of our scandinavian designed beauties like the Amsterdam or the Milan!) There are a few important items you need to cover off to make sure your cabin is legal and compliant with local and government regulations.

Planning Permits VS Building Permits?

I am going to do my very best today to briefly explain the in's and out's of the compliance required when building a backyard cabin in Victoria and before I go on I want to say that you should always do your own research, check with your local council or a compliance specialist before purchasing any type of backyard cabin, shed or building.

In Victoria there are two types of permits typically required when it comes to building a backyard cabin:

There is the Planning Permit and the Building Permit.

These two permits are completely separate from each other and therefore have two separate unrelated sets of requirements and are issued by two different governing bodies.

That might seem obvious to some, however, it's probably the most common question we receive on a daily basis.

Planning Permits

Planning Permits are issued by your local council and effectively approve or deny the application of specific works to take place on a particular parcel of land.

Council/Town Planners are the best people to speak to when assessing the need for a Planning Permit.

Planning Permits relate to your local councils 'planning scheme' which is typically aligned with the state objectives to shape and create a plan for your community's growth, including things like your local building characteristics, single dwelling vs apartment ratio, parks and recreation and other important factors that shape your neighbourhood.

The best way to think about it is, a planning permit relates to "neighbourly" concerns, this ensures you don't build a 10-meter tall cabin in the shape of a rocket ship in your backyard that can be seen from the street, cast a shadow over your neighbours fence, run an unapproved hotel/accommodation business from your new backyard cabin or most commonly, that you don't build over an important piece of council infrastructure like an easement or utility channel without prior consent.

Our experience is that Planning Permits are often not required for a backyard cabins in Victoria as long as they meet a few conditions, but that is a topic for another day.

Finding out if your cabin is going to require a planning permit is fairly simple:

Option #1 - Call up your local council town planner, tell them what you would like to build and get some advice regarding whether your new cabin is likely to trigger the need for a planning permit. Get a written response.

Option #2 - Speak to a professional, we have a compliance team on hand ready to do the heavy lifting for you and to seek an answer from council on your behalf and to get a written response.


In the event that you don't require a planning permit, It is important to note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have written consent from your council town planner, this document must state that your cabin does not require a planning permit.

Many Victorians make the mistake of calling their local council, getting a verbal response that their cabin is unlikely to need a planning permit then proceed to build, this can be a huge mistake with expensive consequences.

Make it a rule - You either get a written planning permit exemption or a written approval. Simple.

If a planning permit is required your local town planner will ask you for a range of documents and paperwork. Similar to the steps from before you have really got two options:

Option #1 - Call up your local council town planner, find out what you need to provide them with for your planning permit application and start to compile those documents for submission, when compiled, submit your application.

Option #2 - Speak to a professional, we have a compliance team on hand ready to do the heavy lifting for you and can compile your compliance documents for you as well as prepare and submit your planning permit application.

How long does it take to get a Victorian Planning Permit or Exemption?

Please consider this to be very much a ball park estimate but I am certain your interested in the average time it takes for our customers to achieve a permit approval or exemption letter.

Planning Permit Exemption Letter: Once requested, the shortest we have ever received a response was 2 weeks and the longest was 4 weeks.

Planning Permit Approval: In the event that your documentation is perfect and there is no delay or revision required, the shortest planning permit approval we have had took 2 months and the longest (so far) was 5 months.

Building Permits

A Building Permit is a document that certifies that you're backyard cabin complies with the minimum standards of construction, as outlined in the Victorian Building Regulations and is safe for occupancy.

Most Building Permits are issued by a Private Building Surveyor and rarely have anything to do with local council.

The process for applying for a building permit is fairly straight forward, your private building surveyor will usually ask you to provide a list of documents and paperwork usually including architectural drawings, Structural Engineering Certificates, the details of your licensed builder, an energy efficiency certificate, Plans and Designs for Sub-Floor Construction, Soil Tests and potentially a range of other criteria.

When you have compiled all of those documents, they are submitted to the surveyor. The surveyor reviews the paperwork and will either issue a building permit which allows you begin construction or a checklist with items that require revision.

Your private building surveyor will arrange inspection checkpoints throughout your build which are typically:

(in the case of one of our cabins)

#1 - Inspection of the stump holes, before being filled to ensure they are at the correct depth and width.

#2 - Inspection of the sub floor before the flooring and building is constructed on top to ensure your sub floor frame is built and attached to the stumps as per your engineered drawings.

#3 - Inspection of the cabin frame during construction.

#4 - Inspection of the completed cabin, known as the 'final inspection'.

If you cabin passes all of the necessary inspection check points, your building surveyor will deem the building permit completed and will issue you with an occupancy certificate.

How long does it take to get a building permit?

Again, please consider this to be very much a ball park estimate but I am certain you are interested in the average time it takes for our customers to achieve permit approval.

Building Permit Approval: In the event that your documentation is perfect and there is no delay or revision required, the shortest turn around for an approval to commence building was 2 weeks and the longest (so far) was 4 weeks.


While many Cabins may be exempt from a Planning Permit, very few are exempt from a Building Permit in Victoria.

Despite many companies claiming "No Permit Required" you should always do your own homework. In many cases these companies are referring to No 'Planning Permit' Required, when it is likely a building permit is still needed.


That is pretty much it! Two main permits required to build a backyard cabin in Victoria and two fairly simple methods of application, either apply for the permits yourself or appoint a compliance professional.

Just for the record, while this is a fairly simple process, like anything, for someone who doesn't work in this field regularly, the process can be quite difficult and complex.

The major gripe we hear from clients doing their own application is, whenever they make a mistake it can set them back months and almost every client of ours who has venture down the self-application path would tell you it wasn't worth the headache and ultimately didn't save them any money. We will always recommend using a professional.

If you have any questions or would like more information or have any further questions please reach out any time.

Happy Building!


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