Landscaping in Victoria - Regulations Summary

When it comes to landscaping work around the house, it’s sometimes tough to tell when you can do it yourself and when you need to hire a professional. It’s also not always clear whether you’ll need a permit, a contract, or insurance for the job. This page’s information will assist in resolving these issues.

Landscaping entails the creation, modification, and upkeep of outdoor environments. It includes the following:

aspects of nature (such as lawns, plants and trees)
aspects of nature (such as the shape and elevation of the land)
aesthetics (such as constructed pathways, decks and water features).

Do you think you need a registered building practitioner

Some landscaping work must be done by a licensed building practitioner, while other landscaping work does not have to be done by a certified building practitioner. Even if a registered building practitioner is not required by law, you may feel more comfortable working with someone who has a VBA registration.

When you need to hire a licensed building contractor, you must:

The contract fee for the work exceeds $10,000, and it is domestic construction work.
Landscaping work is considered domestic building work if it is done in conjunction with the following:

the act of erecting or constructing a house
the renovation, alteration, extension, upgrade, or repair of a home; the construction of a structure that requires a building permit and is located on residential land.
When carried out under a contract limited to these tasks, the following landscaping work is not normally considered domestic building work:

outdoor furniture, sculptures, garden beds and borders cubby houses and play equipment roads and paving ornamental ponds and water features outdoor furniture, sculptures, garden beds and borders cubby houses and play equipment
This means that, regardless of the contract price, a registered building practitioner is not legally required for such works.

Landscape work such as the following is typically classified as residential building work:

retaining structures fences verandahs pergolas related to your home decks associated with your residence (which requires a building permit).
You must hire a properly qualified building practitioner even if only a minor portion of the landscaping job includes domestic construction work and the contract price is over $10,000.

Registered building practitioners who specialise in landscaping

The following registered building practitioners have landscaping-related specializations:

  • Domestic Builder (Limited to the construction of structural landscaping)
  • Domestic Builder (Limited to the construction of gates and fences)
  • Domestic Builder (Limited to the construction of retaining walls)
  • Domestic Builder (Limited to the construction of non-habitable building structures) – this includes private garages and carports, sheds, cabanas, gazebos and shade structures
  • Domestic Builder (Limited to the construction of shade structures)
  • Domestic Builder (Limited to earthworks and excavation work) – required for large scale excavations.

When do you need a building permit in Victoria?

Decks

Decks are open-air living areas. They might be attached to a house or a pool, or they can stand alone. A structural subfloor (a supporting structure built to sustain weight) is frequently used on decks, and a construction permit is necessary. Because no supporting structure is present, timber slats spread directly on a surface (such as concrete or dirt) are often not considered a deck.

When defining what a deck is and whether or not a building permit is required, there might be some ambiguity. If you’re building something that could be classified as a deck, you should obtain help from your local government or a professional deck builder.

Verandahs

A verandah is a covered area that is usually attached to a house.
A building permit is required for verandahs.

Shade structures and pergolas

A pergola is an open, roofless structure. It could be covered with a porous, open-weave material. A pergola does not require a building permit if it meets the following criteria:

is not higher than 3.6m tall, has a floor space of less than 20m2, and meets the siting requirements (location on the allotment) set down in the Building Regulations 2018. (Schedule 3).
If you want to create a larger pergola, you’ll need a building permission.

Gazebos and cabanas

The majority of these constructions are freestanding and have a roof. In most cases, a building permit is required.
Exemptions apply to relatively small constructions that are used as non-habitable structures (less than 10m2).

Retaining walls

All retaining walls must have a building permit if they are:

constructed on or near site borders where harm to adjoining property is a concern, and/or 1m or more in height
A construction permit may not be required for small retaining walls that do not fulfill this definition. Consult your local council or Hammer Excavations for more info.

External stairs

A building permit is usually required when outdoor stairs and ramps are erected in conjunction with the construction, renovation, alteration, expansion, or enhancement of a residence.
When external steps and ramps are not connected to a retaining wall or a home, they may not require a building permit (for example, stairs or ramps in a garden). It can be difficult to determine whether or not a building permit is required for stairs and ramps; ask your local council for clarification.

Driveways

Construction a driveway or laying asphalt does not require a building permit. However, because improperly laid paving might cause water damage to your home, it is best to have this work done by a qualified construction practitioner.
You should be aware that driveways or paving work may obstruct plumbing work in some circumstances (such as drainage). Consider whether the proposed work will disrupt or redirect water flow. You can get precise criteria in your suburb from your local council or water authority.

Cubby houses

A building permit is not required for cubby houses or play equipment used for children’s play.
A structure used for a different purpose (such as sleeping) would, however, require a permission.

Fences

The majority of fences require a building permit. Some fences are exempt, such as a timber side or rear boundary fence that is not more than 2m high and not more than 1.5m when within 3m of a street boundary, and a chain-wire tennis court fence.

Planting tree's and gardening

No permits are required for planting tree’s and gardening in your own property

Water features and ponds

Building permits are not required for decorative ponds and water features if the intended purpose is merely ornamental. This is plumbing work, and you’ll need a certified plumber if you need to connect to the mains water or a drain.
Swimming pools and spas, which require a safety barrier and a building permit, have different regulations than ornamental ponds and water features.
Even if a safety barrier is not legally needed, be mindful that any structure containing water poses a risk of drowning.

How do I know if I need a contract?

A significant domestic building contract is necessary if the contract amount of the domestic building work exceeds $10,000, and you must utilize a qualified building practitioner.
The initial agreement and subsequent contracts are regarded a single contract for the purposes of the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 where landscaping work is to be done in phases under separate contracts.

Visit Consumer Affairs Victoria for more information on contractual obligations.

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