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Private Certification


Before 1998, only Councils in New South Wales could “certify” the construction of a development. This means that if you built a house, or an apartment building, Council would sign off that the building was constructed according to the approved plans. In simple terms, a Development Application (DA) would be assessed by Council planners, followed by a Building Application (BA) assessed and approved by a Council building surveyor (with inspections at critical times like concrete pours).

This situation changed in 1998 when the NSW State Government amended the legislation (the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1993) to create a new group of “accredited” or approved professionals called Principal Certifiers (PCs) who could issue certificates for development independent of Council.

What is a Principal Certifier (PC)?

This legislation introduced the role of Principal Certifiers (PC). PCs are accredited professionals who issue certificates for development under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. 

The PC can either be a Council certifier or a private certifier. They are required to be accredited under a scheme managed by the NSW Fair Trading. A listing of private accredited certifiers can be obtained from the NSW Fair Trading.

The certificates issued by a PC and an explanation of each can be located on each page below:

In the assessment and the approval of these certificates the PC ensures that the proposed development complies with the planning provisions, the required technical standards and regulations. 

Once construction commences the PC has the responsibility of ensuring that building work is carried out either in accordance with the conditions of the Complying Development Certificate (CDC) or the Conditions of the approved Development Application (DA) along with the requirements of the Construction Certificate (CC). An Occupation Certificate is issued where the building is suitable for occupation or use.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the powers of Principal Certifiers (PC)?

    Depending upon the terms of their accreditation, certifiers can:

    • Issue Subdivision Certificates.

    • Issue Construction Certificates, certifying (among other things) compliance with the National Construction Code (NCC).

    • Issue Occupancy Certificates which indicate that the construction has been finalised and building is suitable for occupancy.

    • Issue Compliance Certificates specifying that conditions of consent have been satisfied or that work complies with the plan and specification, or nominating the classification of a building under the NCC.

    • Issue Complying Development Certificates, certifying that nominated development proposals comply with standards and criteria in the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying development Codes).

    • Carry out all the required inspections associated with the building works or subdivision works.

    • Ensure that all pre-conditions are met before the occupation certificate or subdivision certificate is issued.

    • Notify the neighbouring areas of the proposal (CDC) and the intent to start work and be the contact for community concerns regarding the works (for CDCs and CCs).

    Once a complying development certificate has been issued, neighbours within 20 metres from the boundary of the development must be notified, prior to any work commencing. This is called pre-construction notification. This notice is for information purposes only, neighbours cannot make a submission on a neighbouring complying development.

  • What is the Accreditation Process?

    To be accredited, the certifier must demonstrate qualifications and experience, agree to abide by the scheme's code of conduct and complaints handling mechanisms, undertake continuing professional development, and provide evidence of public liability insurance.

    This process is governed by NSW Fair Trading. More information on the accreditation process can be found at NSW Fair Trading.

    The accreditation shows:

    • The extent of a certifier's powers

    • The types of certificate that can be issued and

    • The ability of the certifier to operate as a Principal Certifying Authority (PCA) for a building or subdivision work.

    When accredited, a certifier is given a unique number by the Department of Planning, which is used on all documents to identify the certifier. A certifier must be re-accredited each year.

  • Appointing a principal certifier (PC) and notifying Council

    Prior to the commencement of work a principal certifier (PC) must be appointed. This can be Council or a private certifier. Council must be advised in writing of who has been appointed as the PC where a CC or CDC is issued.

  • What do I do if I have a complaint or concerns about building works or a development site?

    Council understands that construction and development can sometimes cause concerns or inconvenience for those who live in close proximity to a building site.

    The most common concerns about development can often be avoided through early and regular communication and co-operation. Discuss your concerns with the builder or property owner and bring it to their attention. Sometimes they may be unaware that their activities are causing nuisance or are a breach of legislation.

    If this is not an option or the issue cannot be resolved, any complaints to Council about a site that is under the control of a PC, Council's first course of action is to direct the resident to the PC to address the issue. The PC will have the most association and familiarity with events occurring on the site and may be able to effectively resolve the complaint without the need for enforcement. The details of the PC can usually be found on a sign at the front of the development site.

    If you are still unsure who the PC is please contact Council’s Customer Service. Any correspondence received by Council where Council is not the PC will be referred to the private certifier to investigate and respond.

    PCs have enforcement powers. They have the power to issue Directions Notice (under Section 6.31 of the EP&A Act) to the builder/ owner identifying the issue or non-compliance with the approved development plans. The Notice outlines the timeframe for the non-compliance or issue to be resolved.

    A Directions Notice may occur where consent conditions are breached or where construction activities are failing to follow the approved plans.

    If the requirement of the Directions Notice is not complied with, the PC must send a copy of the direction to Council. Council can then take further enforcement action if required.

    Council’s role in building and construction work varies depending on whether or not Council has been appointed as the PC. If Council is appointed as the PC, Council becomes the building inspector and must carry out all the roles of the PC.

    You can request to view the plans through the PC or Council. For copies you can also request information from Council under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act).

    For more information, refer to Councils Access to Information page.  

  • What is Council's role when a private certifier has been appointed as the PC?

    An area of great concern to our community is the use of private certifiers in the approval of complying development certificates and construction certificates and the subsequent management of the construction for development such as dwellings, dual occupancies, additions and granny flats.

    The key issues and complaints we are hearing from the community are

    • Residents do not know a development is occurring next door or in the street until the day the building works start

    • Development does not comply with the legislation and the relevant policies. For example stormwater and trees

    • The development site and construction process is not managed properly - with concerns relating to construction hours

    • The building does not comply with the approved plans or poor construction practices.

    The legislation states that a PC is responsible for conducting inspections and ensuring building and construction complies with the approvals. As the PC is the independent regulator, Council has no authority over the actions of the private certifier.

  • When will Council act on complaints for privately certified developments?

    Council will only act on complaints received about building works on a development site managed by a PC if:

    • Work has commenced and there has been no PC appointed.

    • Work threatens life, safety or damage to property or environment

    • Works may not form part of the development consent

    • The Private Certifier refuses to take action and a breach is occurring.

    • ​The Private certifier has issued a Directions Notice to rectify the breach which has not been complied with and Council is satisfied that the Certifier has exhausted all options to resolve the non-compliance.

    The steps required to be followed in implementing the last dot point above are outlined below.

    • When the PC identifies a non-compliance with the development/site and is unable to get the issue rectified by the builder, the PC will issue the owner/builder with a Written Directions Notice. This Notice provides the details of the non-compliance and outlines a timeframe for rectification. A copy of the Written Directions Notice is sent to Council for reference.

    • After the expiration of the Written Directions Notice, Council will then follow up with the PC to ensure the Written Directions Notice has been complied with.  

    • If the owner/builder does not meet the requirements of the Written Directions Notice, it is then considered that the PC has exhausted all options to resolve the issue of non-compliance. It is at this point that Council will commence regulatory proceedings with the owner/ builder to ensure compliance is achieved.

    When Council is made aware of an alleged non-compliance to a development under the control of a PC, Council will encourage the customer/complainant to contact the PC (preferably in writing) in the first instance. However, if the certifier is not responding to the customer/complainant Council will intervene and make contact with the PC to ensure that the customers/complainants concerns are investigated. Council will also recommend in instances where the PC is not responsive to a customer/complainant that they contact Fair Trading in relation to the conduct of the PC.
    Council has found that in the majority of cases the PC works to address the non-compliances that have been identified.
    Council has no powers to regulate the PC. Regulation of PCs is a matter for Fair Trading. The best Council can do is ensure that any non-compliances relating to the development site or building works are resolved via regulatory provisions under the Act, which are targeted at the owner of the site or builder.

  • What are the common types and complaints and who to contact?
    The following table outlines the common types of complaints that are received and the appropriate agency to contact:
    Customer concern Private Certifier Council Other Agency
    Not advised of building commencement      
    Works commenced with no PC      
    Hours of building work   If you witness works occurring outside hours please call Council  
    Noise from building work      
    Inadequate sediment and erosion controls      
    Blocked footpath      
    Unauthorised works not related to the approval      
    Unsafe work practices on building site     Safe Work NSW
    131 050
    Asbestos related issues on building site     Safe Work NSW
    131 050
    Damage to private property during construction     Seek your own legal advice
    Trespass onto private property by workers on site     NSW Police.
    Contact your local station
    Gas Leak     Jemena
    131 909
    Illegal Parking of construction vehicles      
    Questions around the validity of the CDC     Fair Trading
    133 220
    Complaints about certifier conduct or non-response     Fair Trading
    133 220
  • What is the process for after hours complaints?

    If Council receives a complaint after hours, it will only be acted upon if it is considered an emergency and the work threatens life, safety or damage to property or environment.

    If is not considered an emergency, it will be referred to PC during business hours.

  • What should I do if I have a complaint about a private certifier?

    The Council is not the regulator of private certifiers. Any complaints about the conduct and actions of a private certifier must be directed to NSW Fair Trading.

    More information on lodging a complaint about a private certifier can be found on the NSW Fair Trading website or by calling NSW Fair Trading on 13 32 20.

    Any concerns with NSW Fair Trading should be directed to the NSW Ombudsman or your local Member of Parliament.

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