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When do you need council approval to renovate in Sydney?


Not all renovations in Sydney need council approvals

Once you have made the decision to renovate or build a new bathroom in Sydney your first steps need to be;

  • Setting a budget so you can begin planning your renovation costs.
  • Researching or selecting potential renovation contractors.
  • Choosing the style of the new bathroom interior design.
  • Deciding on the layout ie will the plumbing remain where it is?
  • Shortlisting contractors to organise written quotations.
  • Determining whether you need council approval

One of the aspects that have to be considered is whether you may need council approvals to renovate your bathroom or add a bathroom to your existing house. Unfortunately, every council in Sydney operates differently so there is no exact, precise, answer to this question. 

When you are renovating a freestanding home in Sydney, generally internal renovations do not require outside approvals from councils or other bodies. If you live in a unit, apartment, villa or townhouse you may need to seek strata approval if your renovation will require alterations to the exterior walls, shared walls, any facade, the plumbing or you are building a new bathroom.

It is important to understand your obligations because you don’t want to go to all the effort of renovating a brand new bathroom to find out later you needed to have certain permits or approvals, it could make the renovation illegal & force you to return it to the original state.

It’s also important that before seeking council approval for any project you check what your council requires in any case. As a general rule of thumb, you will probably find that internal renovations don’t usually need approval from the council unless a project involves structural changes. 

Most external renovations, building work, and extensions will require approval otherwise you could be requested to take them down. Depending on your council, even small projects such as a new fence or a deck may require approval. 

Considering most bathroom renovations are internal, it would mean that you may not need a permit. However, if you are bringing down the existing bathroom to build a larger one that needs walls adjusted or involves extending the house, doing major excavation or creating a new freestanding building like a studio or granny flat, then you may need a permit so it is best to check.

When Passion Built has been involved with constructing sheds, decks, fences, carports, pergolas, extensions and even some bathroom renovations, we have seen significant differences among Australia’s councils with their requirements.


Want pricing information?

Dylan from Passion Built will be happy to answer any questions you might have & share information about current renovation package options available.


What is the council approval process to follow in Sydney when renovating?

  • Check what council jurisdiction you fall under.
  • Find the permit application information on their website.
  • Determine if one is required for your renovation project.
  • Contact the council for clarification if you are not sure.
  • Begin preparing the relevant documentation to apply for the permit by engaging the right professionals.
  • Submit your application & answer any additional questions/requirements.

Every council in Sydney will have a slightly different process when it comes to seeking approvals or permits to do renovations. Passion Built is a bathroom renovation company based in Alexandria which falls within the City of Sydney council area. This council has a step by step process to follow for DA’s on their website

Most councils will have something similar, all you have to do is type ‘renovation permit for {suburb name} to quickly find the right source of information for your council area. They will also provide detailed information about what is required depending on the scenario. For example the City of Sydney has a list of property types or definitions that require various forms of development application to get an approval for whether that is residential, commercial or industrial.

Once you locate the appropriate area you can follow the steps required to begin collating the information required (if your project needs it) When you have all the documentation prepared the process normally involves paying a fee to submit the application and providing all the information requested.

What information do you normally need for council approvals to renovate in Sydney?

As we mentioned for most internal renovations you may not need anything to begin your project. Although in the examples where the scope of work will involve moving walls, extending, adding another level etc then there could be extensive documentation required to seek the approvals you need in Sydney.

You could try doing this yourself, but there are lots of professions available in Sydney that can help produce the documentation needed for renovating.


  • Professional architect; they can help you draw up plans for your proposed renovations and take into consideration your existing structure, local laws & building requirements to create the changes you need.
  • A building certifier; normally has to certify the plans to make sure they are in accordance with Australia’s building code. 
  • Principal Certifying Authority (PCA) you may also like to appoint someone who acts as your PCA. This could be the building certifier. The Principal Certifying Authority signs off on your construction to say it has been carried out as per the plans indicated. Once the construction is ended, your PCA provides an occupation certificate (normally for new or major renovations)

It’s important to note that a licensed builder in Sydney can construct nearly any type of structure, although, they may not have the team, skills or expertise to produce all the documentation required to get the initial approvals. 

While this isn’t an issue for most internal bathroom renovations, for major works it is something to consider. Your ultimate goal is to get the appropriate documentation prepared so that you can submit it to be assessed quickly & without any hassles.

How can you get fast council approvals for renovations in Sydney?

There is no secret to getting fast approvals for a renovation project in Sydney sure you will read stories online about brown paper bags being exchanged in dark alleyways, but the reality is that submitting the correct details using professionally produced documentation will normally always get a faster outcome. 

As we already mentioned this isn’t required for most internal renovations but for the more complex jobs it’s important to meet all the local requirements to get the fastest possible approval. 


  • Accuracy – Leave nothing to chance or to be questioned. Make sure every detail is accurate information to make it easier to process the application. Approval can take months, so you will need patience anyway, but no point delaying things with poor documentation. 
  • Communication – Keep constant communication with your council during the time of preparing the documentation before lodgement. Once the lodgement of your application is done, you want to ensure you’re proactive in meeting any requests for additional information that may come through. If you are using a professional make sure they respond promptly.
  • Work with the right professionals – engaging with professionals like builders and architects to get certifications, drawings or plans for your project will improve the confidence levels of the council that it is being done correctly. 
  • Avoid making changes – either before or after you have obtained approval, avoid making changes to your project plans or drawings because alterations to approval can be pretty costly or even delay your project. You have to ensure your  project can start before the expiry of the approval otherwise, you might have to get through the process again.

If you don't need approvals do you have to use a renovating contractor in Sydney?

For most people trying to renovate internal rooms in Sydney you do not require planning permission to add something like a new bathroom unless it will change the structure of your home or is part of an extension.  

In Sydney, New South Wales, if the work is going to cost more than $5,000 in labour and materials, (the average cost to renovate a bathroom in Sydney is around $15,000) you will have to engage the services of a licenced contractor like Passion Built. In fact Fair Trading NSW has quite a number of requirements that all contractors have to follow that protects consumers.

There are other aspects of getting a new bathroom, kitchen or laundry renovation that have regulations that must be adhered to, even if the council doesn’t need to approve the project;

  • Electrical regulations – regarding zoning and placement of electrical outlets, appliances and fixtures such as heated towel rails in accordance with AS/NZS 3000 Wiring Rules
  • Floor waste regulations – floor waste is required if you live in an apartment. In a home, it is a requirement if the shower space is unenclosed.
Passion Built can make the renovating process in Sydney easy by managing many of these aspects for you. It may seem overwhelming to take on a renovation project in your home, but with our experience we can make the process pretty straight forward.

Renovations without strata approval in Sydney nsw

If you live in a building structure that is under strata management it is important to understand what renovation changes may require approval before you being work otherwise you might be forced to change it back.  In simple terms you need permission to do a kitchen or bathroom renovation or for things like changing the walls, floors, or ceilings. The NSW Government has some very simple guidelines to follow on their website here.

Every strata operates differently though, so you have to check the by-laws so you know what approvals are needed for your specific site & how to get them. These could be very different compared to friends or family living in other building blocks in Sydney. If you don’t follow the correct process, you risk having to pay money to put the property back to how it was before you renovated it.

Owners corporations update their by-laws to make the process of requesting approvals quicker and easier so they might make one that .  For example adds a range of items that are considered ‘cosmetic’, meaning owners don’t need to seek approval each time. These can include things like; 

  • install or replace hooks, nails or screws (for hanging paintings or other items on walls)
  • install or replace handrails
  • paint the interior 
  • install or replace blinds and curtains
  • fill minor holes and cracks in internal walls
  • lay carpet
  • install or replace built-in wardrobes.

There will probably also be a by-law that allows the strata committee to make all decisions on ‘minor’ renovations, rather than going to the full meeting of the owners corporation and this will include things like;

  • renovate a kitchen, including flooring
  • change recessed light fittings
  • install or replace flooring, such as hardwood or tiles, as well as removing carpets to expose the flooring underneath
  • change internal walls
  • install or replace wiring, cabling, power, or access points
  • install a rainwater tank
  • install a clothesline
  • install a reverse cycle air conditioner
  • install double or triple glazed windows
  • install a heat pump
  • install ceiling insulation.

Many schemes give the approval power to the strata committee. Otherwise. approval will require a vote at a general meeting. So in most cases you then write to the strata manager or secretary and ask them to vote on your changes. You’ll need more than 50% of the votes cast in favour of the work at the meeting. If the strata committee does not have the power to approve minor renovations, you’ll need to ask for approval at an annual general meeting (AGM) or an extraordinary general meeting (EGM).

This process is followed by thousands of people every year who are trying to renovate their unit, apartment or townhouse in Sydney. Passionbuilt services strata renovations in Sydney once the approvals have been granted, this is one of the most basic bathroom renovation requirements to build a new bathroom.

Do you need council approvals for your internal renovations in Sydney?

Whether you need council approvals for your internal renovations will depend on the type of home you are trying to renovate. 

If it is a unit, apartment or townhouse you may be able to complete some cosmetic renovations, but would need to seek approval for minor ones or if any of the work involves moving walls or existing services. Therefore you most likely will need strata approval for a complete bathroom renovation as it is more than just basic cosmetic changes, but if you are just changing the style of tap then that would be considered cosmetic, so no approval needed.

For free standing homes things are a bit easier and for most internal renovations you don’t need approvals unless major structural changes are taking place. Although every council will differ when it comes to their approach in this area, that is why it is always worth taking the time to check.

Do you need permission to add a bathroom to your home in Sydney?

You may not need permission to add a bathroom to your home in Sydney if it is a freestanding building, but you most likely will need it for a strata property. Most councils in Sydney will let you add a bathroom where it is taking up space within your existing structure. If the extra bathroom means the home is being extended or another level is added, then DA or other approvals will be needed. Therefore it means sometimes you will require a permit to get permission to add a bathroom and other times you may not. It will be dependant on the structure and building type. What requires council approval will then also vary by suburb (or even state) in Australia.

Even if you were just thinking about adding an outdoor shower, the regulations vary from state to state, but generally speaking if you do build a new outdoor shower then it needs to drain to the main sewer system – not the stormwater or the garden. So if you get us to renovate your new bathroom we can also install a new outdoor shower with hot and cold water plus the line to reach the sewerage so it discharges to the right location.


Can you renovate a bathroom without council approvals in Sydney?

You can build, renovate or do anything you like to your home without council approvals – but keep in mind all it takes is one inspection to then have to pay to rectify anything that is not approved. Also the chances are you would have to try and find licensed tradesman in your area that are comfortable doing work that doesn’t have the right regulatory approvals, many renovation companies in Sydney will refuse to do this type of work.

Doing something basic like re-painting the walls, adding a towel hook, changing a mirror or installing new lighting are all basic cosmetic things that can be done any day of the year. As soon as you start thinking about demolishing an old bathroom, moving walls, extending the home to make more space then you have to immediately consider getting the right approvals.


Do you need planning permission to turn a bedroom into a bathroom in Sydney?

The simple answer is you don’t need do you need planning permission to turn a bedroom into a bathroom. This is especially true for most stand alone homes, but you will need strata approval for doing this type of renovation conversion in a unit, apartment or townhouse most likely. As long as you are using the same walls then turning a bedroom into a bathroom can be pretty straight forward. The complexity will depend on where the water supply and sewage lines are located. If you are fortunate they run under the existing bedroom so that holes can be cut into the floor to tap into the existing services.

If that is not the case then new lines or connections to an existing line will need to be added. This is relatively easy for older homes built on piers with timber floor boards, we can get into the crawl space to make those adjustments. If the room is on a concrete slab it can still be done, but more work is involved, we are literally going to cut into the concrete to create new channels for the bathroom plumbing to run.

The rest of the process is similar to other situations with flooring, waterproofing, tiling etc is all done once the room is prepared ready for the new bathroom construction.


Free site inspection, consultation & quote

It’s really easy to find out the cost to renovate. We offer an obligation free site inspection, consultation & written price quote so that you can work out all the costs before you commit to renovating.

See some of our Sydney renovation before and after examples

We explain the scope of work that has gone into some of the renovation projects we have completed in Sydney.

In Sydney, New South Wales you will need to get a permit for renovations if the changes are making significant changes to walls, the structure like extensions or additions, new structures or external dwellings like a granny flat. For most internal renovations you generally won’t require a permit to renovate, especially for bathroom makeovers, new bathrooms or maybe even converting a laundry into a bathroom.

Similar to permits, you may not need a development application for renovating your bathroom in Sydney, especially if you are doing it within the existing walls and it is a freestanding dwelling. If you are trying to add a bathroom to a garage, build a granny flat with a bathroom or even maybe convert a shed to an outdoor bathroom then these may require development applications depending on your local council’s requirements.

Depending on the heritage zoning of the area your property is located you may have to engage a Heritage Consultant to assess what may or may not be renovated in your home. There are so many different regulations or requirements that it makes sense to engage a professional so ensure the right approvals are secured before renovating. 

A complying development certificate can be determined by the City of Sydney or private certifier without the need for a full development application. Complying development certificates are issued for specified types of low-impact works. The certificates provide a fast-track approval process, while ensuring stringent planning and environmental requirements are met through a set of prescribed approval conditions.


Some categories of work that are complying development:

  • Alterations and additions to an existing dwelling
  • Construction of a secondary dwelling
  • Small retail and commercial development
  • Internal alterations or fit-outs of commercial buildings
  • Street awnings and business signs.


Alterations and additions to residential developments may sometimes need a

  • Site plan
  • Location plan
  • Structural plan for works such as concrete slabs/footings, steel beams or similar structural elements
  • Architectural plans
  • Specifications
  • Contract for certification work
  • BASIX certificate for dwellings, residential construction work exceeding $50,000 or swimming pools exceeding 40,000L
  • Owners consent
  • Existing fire safety measures for class 2-9 buildings
  • Proposed new or altered fire safety measures for class 2-9 buildings


You must notify neighbours if you use the complying development system to carry out works in residential zones. Neighbours within a 20m radius of the site will be notified by the registered certifier when they are processing a complying development application within a residential zone.


Licensed builder and founder of Passion Built

About us

Passion Built, a premier licensed builder in Sydney, that provides bespoke bathroom renovation services tailored to meet the specific needs and visions of each client whether it is for a house, apartment or commercial use location. Recognised as one of the most modern bathroom renovation builders in Sydney, we specialise in transforming living spaces including a laundry

For those looking to revamp their bathrooms, our detailed bathroom renovation package brochure provides an array of options to renovate a bathroom in your house or apartment within your budget without compromising on quality. 

Unique services such as converting laundry to bathroom are handled with the utmost precision, showcasing our dedication to innovation. With a commitment to transparency and no hidden surprises, our fixed price bathroom renovation quotations ensure complete peace of mind for every single client. 

Trust Passion Built to design your new bathroom space; your dreams, our blueprint.