When do you need council approval to renovate


Not all renovations need council approvals in Sydney

Once you have made the decision to renovate your 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.

One of the aspects that have to be considered is whether you may need council approvals to renovate your bathroom.  Unfortunately, every council in Australia 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 or even the plumbing.

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.

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.


What is the council approval process?

  • 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. They have 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 do you normally need for council approvals to renovate?

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.

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?

There is no secret to getting fast approvals, 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 contractor?

For most people trying to renovate internal rooms 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 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 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.

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.

Bathroom renovation before and after examples

We explain some of the renovation work we have completed for different projects in Sydney.

In 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, 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.