Your construction project is finally coming to a close. The hard work is done and you’re ready to apply for the final Occupation Certificate (OC). Then, delays.

You realise the remediation and other conditions outlined in the Construction Certificate (CC) have not yet been met. You’re missing an Asbestos clearance certificate and the Principal Certifying Authority (PCA) hasn’t inspected the early stages of construction.

These issues (and many more) can see your OC rejected, pushing out timelines and increasing expenses. Don’t get caught out. With the right partners and processes in place, you can avoid these costly headaches. Here’s a builder’s guide to final Occupation Certificates in NSW.

What is an Occupation Certificate (OC) in NSW?

 

An Occupation Certificate (OC) is official approval that a construction project complies with necessary industry standards and is safe for human occupancy. Builders in NSW need to apply for an OC with proof that the construction has met the required structural, environmental and safety regulations. Essentially, an OC shows your development is fit for use. 

Final OC’s can only be issued by local council or a principal certifier. To gain this certification, builders in NSW must submit an application with supporting evidence. Depending on your project size and scope, this proof can include: 

  • Development Consent or Complying Development Certificate (CDC).
  • Construction Certificate.
  • Fire Safety Certificate.
  • Compliance Certificate.

Why is an Occupation Certificate (OC) so important in NSW?

 

Obtaining an OC is the final step in Development Applications (DA) or CDCs for residential, commercial and industrial projects in NSW. This certificate is a mandatory legal requirement under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 before a newly constructed site can be occupied or used. An OC certifies that: 

  • There are no health and safety hazards for occupants. This involves remediation of pollutants like soil and groundwater contamination to industry-accepted levels.
  • There is no unreported structural or environmental damage. This is important for future buyers as unreported issues like asbestos and lead contamination may require future remediation. 
  • Buyer confidence in land quality. An OC is a common request from solicitors and potential buyers. It proves that professional testing and procedures have been conducted. 

There are no breaches of industry regulations. Unauthorised construction works can lead to hefty fines. An OC clears builders of liability for works out of scope and illegal use of the property.

 

Can you sell a home without an Occupation Certificate (OC) in NSW?

Yes, you can sell a home without an OC in NSW but it can create complications with potential buyers. Conveyancers and solicitors will usually request an OC as a condition of sale. If an OC can’t be given prior to settlement, you may need to lower the purchase price. Obtaining an OC simplifies the sales process and gives buyers confidence in the property’s value.

 Can I get an interim or partial Occupation Certificate (OC)?

 

Interim or partial Occupation Certificates are often associated with apartments and new builds in NSW. From 1 December 2019 new developments cannot apply for Interim OCs as outlined in the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act). Unless the development was completed before this date, it is usually an offence to occupy a dwelling that does not hold a final OC. 

What is the penalty for no Occupation Certificate in NSW?

 

With the NSW government looking to reduce the number of construction defects across the state, hefty penalties are now in place for builders and architects who do not obtain a final OC. Under the Building Products (Safety) Act 2017, OC audits can now be made pre, post and during construction at any time. If issues are uncovered, such as ignored Remediation Action Plans, builders can face Stop Works orders, Prohibition and other orders until these issues are addressed. Failure to comply can lead to thousands of dollars in fines and delays. 

A construction site that doesn’t reflect the intentional use and scope as outlined in the Construction Certificate (CC) can face large council fines and forced demolition. The sale of land without an OC, required usually 14 days before sale, can also lead to a breach of contract. Councils can issue fines to dwellers and cease of use orders if there is no OC in place.

Your Occupation Certificate Checklist NSW:

 

OCs are a normal part of the process for construction in NSW. With the right partners and procedures in place, obtaining an OC won’t become a headache. For builders managing development projects in NSW, here’s a checklist to make sure your OC application is on the right track for fast approval: 

  • Submit a copy of the Development Application consent and approved plans.
  • Submit a copy of the Construction Certificate and supporting documents.
  • Submit a Fire safety certificate and fire safety schedule. 
  • Submit a Compliance Certificate with supporting documents. 

Other requirements that may be specific to your application and requested by Council include:

  • Installation Certificates for each relevant component (fire doors, wet area proofing, exit signs, stormwater etc) prepared by the installer.
  • Evidence that all work has been completed in accordance with the BASIX commitments.
  • Evidence that all work has been completed in accordance with the provisions of the Building Code of Australia.
  • Evidence that all required steps in the Remediation Action Plan (RAP) have been completed. 
  • Evidence that a Construction Environmental Management Plans (CEMP) has been implemented by qualified consultants. 
  • Landscape completion certificates.
  • Asbestos clearance certificates.
  • Geotechnical reports.

For more information visit the Occupation Certificate application portal on the NSW Government website here.