How to choose and install a reverse cycle air-conditioning system for apartments?

Wall mounted Mitsubishi reverse cycle air-conditioner

Wall mounted Mitsubishi reverse cycle air-conditioner

Most older style apartments and units in Australia were built without air-conditioning or heating. New apartments coming onto the market these days are generally fitted with reverse cycle air-conditioning which are either ducted (built into the apartment) or split unit system where each room has individually fitted wall-mounted units with an external compressor unit.

Some newer apartments have also been wired for reverse cycle air-conditioning by the developer should owners choose to install these systems subject to approval of the Owners’ Corporation. In these cases, the developer and Owners’ Corporation will specify the specific model of the split unit system that owners can install to ensure the system is compatible with internal wiring and noise level requirements.

Depending on the size of the room or living areas, split unit systems are very efficient as they can either heat or cool a space of up to 60 – 70 sqm. These systems also generally use less electricity because unlike ducted systems, occupants have the option of only using the split units for certain areas as opposed to ducted systems where the entire apartment or townhouse will be heated or cooled when the system is turned on.

Mitsubishi reverse cycle air-conditioning

Mitsubishi reverse cycle air-conditioning

I have found that although Mitsubishi and Daikin air-conditioners are slightly more expensive than other brands in the market,  the 5 kilowatt cooling and 5.8 kilowatt heating specifications are by far very effective for cooling or heating an area of up to about 70 sqm or more depending on the layout plan and positioning of the split unit. Bedrooms with smaller areas may only require models with a smaller heating / cooling capacity. Another great feature of these units is they are extremely silent and remote controls have a good working range around the entire room. Many developers and Owners’ Corporation also require these models to be fitted as the outdoor compressor units comply to noise level requirements.

Caution should be exercise in choosing the positioning of the outdoor compressor units as warm air being expelled from the unit may interfere with usability of the areas of the balcony or courtyard immediately next to the unit. Specially designed vents to redirect the warm air may be a solution to this issue if required.

Split level and maisonette style apartments should take into consideration whether the internal unit be install on the higher or lower levels depending on preference of heating and cooling during the winter and summer periods. Portable floor fans are extremely effective in redirecting hot air to lower levels and cool air to higher levels of split level apartments and town house by using the back of the fan as a suction device.

Portable floor fan

Portable floor fan

Prices may vary depending on capacity but generally range between $900 – $2,000 for both internal and external units. Installation will cost between $500 – $600 and it is important to choose a reputable installer. Not damaging walls and carpets is part of an experienced installer’s skill in addition to providing advice on the most effective position to install both the internal and external units.

I have also found Bing Lee to provide among the most competitive quotes for reverse cycle air-conditioning. They also have a list of installers but one needs to ascertain the installers are reputable as they are merely third party independent contractors.

External Mitsubishi compressor unit with specially fitted vents to redirect hot air

External Mitsubishi compressor unit with specially fitted vents to redirect hot air

How to get off the rental rut

Jason Fritsch - First Home Owner at 18 years old

Jason Fritsch - first home owner at 18 years old!

I know of quite a few renters, mostly young X & Y generation youths with good paying jobs who simply can’t put together a deposit towards a first home. They have been renting for years either by themselves or share a house or apartment with friends and split the weekly rent among themselves. Not a bad proposition since it becomes relatively cheaper than being bogged down by a huge mortgage even though it means sacrificing privacy at times. There are both pros and cons with this arrangement and I will start with the good:

Pros of renting vs owning a home

  • The most obvious is not having the burden and responsibility of a mortgage each month and therefore, more disposable income, especially if a few friends share the weekly rent.
  • Long term renters can sometimes negotiate good rental rates from some landlords who value stability over a few extra dollars in rental income.
  • Renters do not need to pay for all the incidental costs that come with owning a home such as water and council rates, insurance, management fees, repairs and maintenance of property.
  • Renters do not need to worry about not being able to find good tenants and having an investment property vacant whilst having to service monthly mortgage payments or having to contend with bad tenants who may trash their property and not pay rent on time or at all.
  • Some renters seek out lifestyle properties as a matter of choice, such as a beachfront mansion or a large home in the country side which they can live in by paying relatively cheaper rent than trying to own such properties themselves.
  • There are also those who own their home but choose to rent to take advantage of tax benefits but these renters are not the focus of this article.
Tenants from hell!!

Tenants from hell - do you really need this??

Now for the bad news:

Cons of renting vs owning a home

  • Long term renters who rent not by choice, are  sometimes resigned to the fact that buying their own home may be out of their reach and see the weekly rent as just another bill they have to pay and become very comfortable with their renting situation. This eventually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of never having the need to own a home.
  • Generally, property prices trend upwards in the long run and in Australia, the current shortage of housing is seen by many to support long term price growth. This situation may not augur well for renters who do not put home ownership as a priority in their lives.
  • The housing shortage will also drive up rental rates and with a booming population, landlords are currently having the benefit to choose from many tenants applying for the same property to rent.
  • Renting obviously does not accord the same freedom to renters as owning your own home, such as installing fittings and having to abide by maintaining the property in good repair save for reasonable wear and tear.
  • Renting can sometimes be expensive and for some extra dollars, a mortgage may not be that far off for some renters, especially those who share rental premises.

The joy of home ownership

Getting in

To me, the most effective way to get into the property market for aspiring first home owners is to try and save for a deposit either with family help or friends and then, if necessary, buy the first property with friends if they are already renting together. Needless to say, friends who buy property together need to be “on the same page” in terms of personality, goals, financial capacity and long term commitment towards owning. By ditching the rent and sacrificing a little disposable income, it is not unrealistic for a few friends to pool resources and buy their first home.

There are also investors who have gone beyond owning their homes and are now pulling resources to buy lifestyle properties such as beach houses and holiday homes (See article below).

Ownership structure

If first home owners are sharing the burden of buying jointly with friends, the single most important consideration is ownership structure, that is whether the property is to be held as “joint tenants” or “tenants in common” and legislation differs in each state in Australia. The main difference if you own a property as joint tenants, you all own the property in equal shares and if one of the owners die, then their share will automatically pass to the surviving owner/s. Even a will cannot override a joint tenancy. This form of ownership is appropriate with married or long term defacto couples as it is often their wish that if one partner passes away, their share in the property goes to the surviving partner.

If you own a property as tenants in common, you can choose to own the property either in equal or unequal shares eg 50% / 50%, 20% / 80% or 30% / 35% / 35%. If one of the owners die, your will determines who gets your ownership as your proportion does not automatically go to the surviving owners. This form of ownership structure is more appropriate for friends who wish to pool resources, purchase and own property together.

As always, I would advise consulting a legal adviser and accountant to consider all the legal issues before jumping in and buying that first property with friends without fully understanding and being aware of all the legal and financial implications.

Summary

Of course, the pros and cons above are general reasons why some people may choose or not choose to rent. Indeed, I have come across renters who say they are so happy and comfortable with their rented premises, they really do not see any need to ever own their own home.

It brings us back to the question – “Why do I need to buy a property?” Therefore, I would advise any aspiring first home owner to carefully consider this question. Just as how some people choose not to drive, preferring public transport and hence not having the need to own a car at all, one may also find there is absolutely no necessity to buy a property, ever!

Some lucky renters have found their “dream rental property” and have grown to such a level of affinity to consider it their “home” or their “sanctuary”. They are perfectly happy to make  expensive decisions on decoration, furniture and furnishings which they would not otherwise be able to afford if they had to be paying a mortgage. This argument is well and good when it makes tenants as happy as owing their own home. Personally, I see home ownership as one of the most basic of one’s needs and livelihood. In Australia, 70% of people are either home owners or in the process of owning their home through a mortgage. Regardless of social status or background, one needs a roof over one’s head and I suspect that given a choice, the majority of us would choose owning over renting.

For more info and resources, visit our First Home Buyers section.

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How to find a good architect

How to find a good architect 1

Architecture House Design by Mark Canadell Architect

When you are considering building your own home or undertaking major renovations, an architect may be critical to ensure that your project will be completed within your budget and time frame. Many people see an architect as someone who comes up with an initial concept design for a house and a builder would then carry out the construction work.

Depending on the terms of the contract, a good architect invariably involves more than the design and building plans. The key benefits of engaging an architect for your building project or renovations include:

  • Collaborating with the owner throughout the design process – providing guidance and advice on the aesthetics as well as the practical aspects of a design, choosing the different types of building materials and finishes and the level of quality finish according to your budget.
  • Deliberate with council to obtain feedback on compliance with building code and regulations, submit your building plans to council for approval.
  • Project manage the entire building and construction process – advising, supervising and managing the various parties involved such as builders, landscaper, plumbing and electrical works.
  • Provide advice on variations and offer suggestions to ensure efficiency in energy use whilst incorporating sustainable and environmentally friendly building principles.
How to find a good architect

Architecture House Design by Mark Canadell Architect

Key process and issues to finding a good architect

  • Search through national bodies such as the Association of Consulting Architects Australia to find a list of architects within your city or state.
  • A good architect / firm of architects should have an informative website to provide clients and prospective clients about the type of work the firm specialises in. Such information would include the size of the firm, number of partners, previous number, size and location of projects undertaken. It is important to ensure the architect has the relevant experience and have undertaken similar projects before in the past.
  • The architect should ideally have previous experience in dealing with the council in which you will be applying to and be able to provide an indication of whether proposed plans have any special conditions or requirements of council and the likelihood of approval.
  • Discuss with a few different architects to gain a feel for the type of experience, work ethics and proposed fees charged. Just like many other professions, an architect’s terms of engagement and professional fees are guided by the standard Architect’s Institute of Australia (AIA) Client Architect agreement. You need to ensure you understand the terms of the agreement and consult a legal adviser if necessary.
  • The architect will need to provide a fee proposal and terms of engagement that is appropriate for your project and should be flexible in tailoring certain issues according to your requirements. He / she should provide an indication of the duration or time line for the entire project so that you have a clear understanding of its costs and completion dates at each stage.
  • It is important that you feel comfortable dealing with your prospective architect from the outset as you will need to be working closely with him / her during the course of the entire project.

When you have finally chosen your preferred architect, you will need to sign the letter of engagement before the architect can commence work on your project. It is very important to be hands-on during the course of the project even though the architect may be acting as the project manager / single point of contact that supervises the entire building and construction team. This is to be absolutely certain the project is going according to schedule and within your budget.

How to find a good architect 2

Architecture House Design by Mark Canadell Architect

How to obtain accurate construction costs?

Not only have property prices increased significantly over the last 15 months, property investors who are looking to build their own homes either through a builder or using a volume home builder need to be aware that construction costs are also on the rise. Trade services are not cheap and depending on the level of finishings, these costs all add up when you take into account planning and council fees, project management fees, ancillary charges and don’t foget contingencies – there is bound to be some unforeseen expenses that need to be budgeted for.

Rawlinsons Construction Cost Guide is an excellent guide which provides extensive unit cost data for housing, small commercial and industrial buildings throughout Australia.

The obvious advantage of a new dwelling is the tax depreciation if it is going to be an investment property provided these depreciation charges suit the financial and tax circumstances of the individual investor. For example, there is little point in negative gearing a portfolio if you are only going to make tax losses at the end of the financial year.

Having an accurate account of construction costs will minimise the risk of cost overruns as this is usually the largest single cost category when building a new home. A good project manager and quantity surveyor will be able to provide accurate estimates in order to ensure the project is within budget and can be completed on time.

Some quantity surveyors provide construction cost calculator / estimator on their websites. These tools should only be used as a guide as they may not be able to take into account more detailed costings associated with a particular building project.

BMT Tax Depreciation
, a firm of quantity surveyors have recently come up with estimates of construction cost per square metre for Sydney. This is a very useful guide for investors who are contemplating building their own home.

BMTTax Depreciation - Obligation free quote

How to buy a Balinese villa for investment

Balinese villa, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Balinese villa, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Australians have had a life-long love affair with Bali. Despite the setbacks experienced by the Balinese people as a result of ruthless terrorists, we have continued to favour Bali as our holiday destination and it’s not hard to see why. The relative strength of the Australian dollar in recent times means more bang for our buck. The Balinese people are friendly, good-natured and we enjoy our time in the sun, surf as well as delicious nasi goreng at throw away prices.

Bali Tourist map

Bali map

New Year's Eve 2009 dinner in our Aria villa, Bali

Albert Wong & his wife Pui Sing, X'mas 2009, Bali

Indeed, some Australian have even made the beautiful island their home away from home, setting up local businesses and embrace Bali as an alternative lifestyle in a very different setting. Many have purchased local real estate as an investment and see it as a holiday home in an exotic setting. Whether local Balinese real estate constitute good investment propositions from an Australian point of view depends obviously on the risks and returns of the proposal. Depending on location, typical prices range from as cheap as US160,000 to those well over US$ 4 million.

Popular locations will include those which are close to commercial and tourist precincts and these include Ubud, Kuta, Seminyak and Jimbaran where property prices have seen steady growth over time. Apart from Ubud, well-located properties in Kuta, Seminyak, Denpasar and Jimbaran will be within walking distance to the beach and tourist attractions such as restaurants, cafes and shopping.

Other popular locations which have yet to experience significant capital growth but are also close to local beaches and tourist areas include, Sanur, Canggul, Bukit and Tanah Lot.

Some key points:

  • Find and establish a good relationship with reputable local real estate agent. There are many local real estate agents in Bali and it is good to review the websites of these agents to find out the quality of management and staff who are running the business, the level of activity in terms of property listings and to visit their offices. Exotiq Real Estate is a local agent which has offices all over Bali and is run by both locals and expats. Management fees charged by local managing agents can range anywhere from 6 – 15% depending on the level of services such as lease and tenant management, up-keep of property and grounds. A good  return on investment for a well-located property can fetch up to a net of 10% (ie after all other expenses such as management fees and taxes are paid). These properties are usually leased to expats over a 12 or 24 month lease.
  • Understand the local Indonesian laws regarding foreign ownership of local real estate. For example only Indonesian nationals are entitled to purchase and own freehold land. Private Indonesian companies, whether domestic or foreign-owned are entitled to purchase leaseholds, rights of use and build. Usual practice for foreign ownership is to enter a legal contract with an Indonesian national acting as a nominee who will hold the freehold title but assigns the control to the foreigner through a power of attorney. It is always prudent to engage a reputable local solicitor to formalise this process and ensure all legal requirements and interests of the purchaser is adequately protected.
  • Understand the local Indonesian tax laws which affect foreign ownership of local real estate. Transfer of land titles incur a 5% government transfer tax based on the government designated value of the property which in most instances is substantially lower than the prevailing market price.

As always, engage professionals such as a reputable accountant, solicitor and real estate agent to  assist you in navigating the buying, leasing and management process. This ensures that potential loopholes are plugged and your legal and financial interests are protected.

How to secure a rental property

Ray White, Epping

Ray White real estate agents in Epping, Sydney

Vacancy rates for rental properties in major capital cities across Australia are at all-time lows, some even going below 1% of available rental properties in the market.

There have been horror stories that renters in certain areas have just submitted application forms without even inspecting the property having more than 10 previous applications rejected. Due to the acute shortage in popular areas, some renters are taking more proactive steps to ensure their application gets the attention of the agents. Here are some top tips to make your application stand out from the crowd:

1. Prepare a cover letter. Submitting an application for rental is somewhat like an application for a job interview. You want to take a professional approach and this involves highlighting your greatest attributes. You need to have a good understand of what landlords wants – rent on time, every time and due care and maintenance of their property. Show the following in your letter:

  • Your enthusiasm – say why you like the property. Agents and landlords know that renters who value the rented premises tend to take better care of it. If you decide to stay for longer than the usual 6 or 12-month lease, it is advisable to state your intentions as landlords generally prefer good tenants with a long term lease.
  • Your rental history – if you have been renting for awhile, you should be able to provide a brief of your renting history, that you have always made payments on time.

2. References. These are important documents because it establishes your rental history and lend assurance to the agent and landlord that you are bona fide and can at least demonstrate an advantage over first-time renters.

3. Deposit and rental ledger. In a tight rental market, you have to be very quick if you have decided on the rental property you want. Be prepared to pay the required rent in advance and / or bond money to secure the premises. If you have been a good payer, obtain a copy of the rental ledger from your agent. This is one of the most powerful document that you can present which landlords regard very highly in their list of priorities.

4. Proof of employment. A letter of employment from your employer, pay-slips and bank statements are documents which shows agents and landlords that you are stable and can demonstrate income-earning capabilities.

How to choose the right builder for your dream home

2007972583_1_FS

Home renovations, extensions and improvements have pre-occupied many Australians who choose to embark on the work for various reasons – improve their lifestyle, family planning, make money and create value for their real estate investments.

Building a new home involves an extensive list of professionals and tradesmen, the most important one of which is the builder. Some key issues to consider in choosing the right builder include:

1. Seek recommendations

If friends have previously used a builder, then the best approach would be to discuss with the friend and be able to see for yourself the quality of the build and feedback. Most architects and project managers will also be able to recommend good builders as it forms part of their everyday work in dealing with builders and tradespeople.superstock_1042r-9822b.medium

2. The builder is a registered practitioner

In order to carry out building works, the builder must have all the required insurance during the construction phase until the occupancy certificate is issued. A builder who is not licensed or registered will not be able to obtain the relevant public liability,  WorkCare and completion guarantee insurance. Completion guarantee insurance is required by the building surveyor before a building permit can be issued to commence construction. Builders are also required to provide the statutory six-and-a-half-year structural guarantee insurance on all domestic building works. You can check if the builder is licensed under the Department of Fair Trading website.

3. Credit check and solvency

There have been many cases where the builder becomes insolvent during a project, leaving the entire construction site unattended and incomplete. This has disastrous consequences in terms of legal implications, public safety and continuity of project not to mention financial stress on holding costs. Credit checks on builders can be obtained from credit reporting agencies such as Veda Advantage and Dun & Bradstreet.

4. Previous building experience on similar work

Some builders specialise in certain type of building work and it is important to ensure the builder is capable of effectively carrying out the proposed project. Check out the builder’s previous projects to ascertain build quality and speak to their previous clients to obtain written references and feedback on cost competitiveness, timeliness and service.

The building  / construction contract

There are essentially 2 types of domestic / residential building contracts provided by:DBI_Image_2

a) Master Builders Association (MBA)

b) Housing Industry Association (HIA)

The building contract is one of the most important documents in the construction and development of a property. The contract generally sets out the key terms and conditions, among other things, the obligations, rights and remedies for all parties involved. It is always advisable to have the building contract verified and advised upon by a solicitor who has extensive experience in property law and conveyancing in this area of specialty.

Pertinent terms and conditions of a building contract include the following key issues:

a) Cost of construction (ie the contract price you will pay the builder) and the manner in which progress payments will be made. In general, progress payments are broken up into 6 stages and the percentages of each stage must be clearly stated:

i) Initial deposit to confirm acceptance of the building contract and for the builder to commence construction work;

ii) Payment at the end of the base stage;

iii) Payment at the end of the frame stage;

iv) Payment at the end of the lock-up stage;

v) Payment at the end of the fixing stage;

vi) Final payment upon completion of the project and issuance of occupancy certificate.

b) Detailed scope of work for each stage of the construction process

c) Timeline which sets out the, commencement date, estimated deadline and milestones for each stage of the construction phase and the final completion date

d) Sets out detailed recourse / remedies in the event there is a dispute between the owner / developer with the builder

e) Provisions that all building and construction works are in accordance with relevant building guidelines, rules and regulations

f) Specifies that work carried out is in compliance with the building specifications, architect drawings and cost calculations.

g) Specific details of all parties, location and title details – name and address of the property and the registered owner, name and address of the builder, description of the property and its title details.

h) Allowance for prime cost items – this allowance is for items, fixtures and fittings which have yet to be chosen by the owner whereby a pricing has not been determined.

i) Allowance for unsuitable weather, public holidays and other unforeseen events.

How to avoid buying a dud apartment

IMG_0002

Sign of trouble ~ Sub-letting and unprofessional advertising practices by owners and tenants at Regis Tower in Pitt street, Sydney

When buying an apartment, the same principles and good common sense apply and these include the usual location analysis, good public transport and amenities, attractive floor-plans and unique points of differences, modern conveniences such as reverse cycle air-conditioning, gas cooking and lock-up storage.

However, you would be wise to understand and investigate some issues which are beyond the mere asking price and physical appearance of the property:

1. Understand the ratio of tenants vs owner-occupiers of the apartment block.

Some apartment blocks have an extremely high percentage of tenants, that is, mostly investors as opposed to owner-occupiers. In such cases, there is usually less control in terms of occupants abiding by-laws and regulations. Owners have less control over the quality of occupants / tenants and the performance of the strata manager. Tenants are also less likely to care for and maintain the premises the same way that owners do. When this happens, the building will “degenerate’ quickly as it will develop a bad reputation and stigma. Investors will avoid the building and in the long run, the apartments within the building will all suffer from poor capital growth. At best, it will have fairly consistent rental yield if it is located close to the CBD but it will attract low quality tenants.

2. Check the previous minutes of strata meetings

Minutes of strata meetings will usually reveal the history of how well an apartment block is managed. It will show the actions and tasks which were undertaken to resolve problems, adverse events such as looming capital repair bills, insurance claims outstanding, squabbles between owners and messy legal proceedings.

3. Strata levies and sinking fund

The age of the building, facilities such as lifts, swimming pool, gymnasium, concierge, security and compound  maintenance are the big ticket items which determines strata levies to a large extent. Comparisons of strata levies can be made with similar apartment blocks to determine the efficiency and effectiveness the performance of the strata manager and how active the Owners’ Corporation are in the affairs of the maintaining the property in a good state of repair.

Sinking funds are monies set aside to fund future repairs and maintenance of the building which are of a capital nature such as any structural additions, repairs and new facilities. There are laws and regulations governing the administration of sinking funds to ensure fund adequacy through regular and progressive payments so that owners are not caught with significant future shortfalls. Ascertain the level of sinking fund to ensure it is adequate and you will not be liable for large increases in the future should the fund be inadequate.

4. Local agent feedback

Local agents in the suburb will usually have the lion share of managing apartments in the suburb and usually have information which will help in your research. Visit and talk to these agents to find out how many apartments they are managing within the block, tenant profile, turnover, history of rental rates and reviews, historical apartment prices trends and other general information on the suburb.

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How to get into property development

Ron Forlee - Australian Residential Property Development

For any budding residential property developer, I cannot recommend more highly Ron Forlee excellent book on the subject. Among the key topics covered in his book include:

  • Understanding the residential property market and development process
  • Getting the best professional advice
  • Site selection and purchase
  • Maximising your profit
  • Sourcing the best development finance
  • Taxes and tax planning
  • Authorities, approvals and rezoning
  • Planning, design and cost control
  • Marketing and selling
Ron Forlee

Ron Forlee

Ron Forlee graduated as an architect from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa before immigrating to Australia in 1983. Established his own design and property development consultancy called Archiplan Pty Ltd in Perth whilst still maintaining an interest in South Africa.

Over the past 30 years Ron has been involved in all facets of architecture from design to on-site supervision, and managing his own property developments.

Projects have ranged from housing to larger commercial buildings such as shopping centres, office blocks and tourism developments both in Australia, South Africa and China.

Being an expert in the field of property development, Ron has written and published three books, two on property development and the other building construction and has delivered a number of papers at seminars on the subject of his pet interest.

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How to obtain approval for a Development Application

The process of obtaining approval for a Development Application (DA) can be a daunting task as it involves dealing with the bureaucratic maze of councils and other authorities such as the Office and local utility companies. The terminology itself may be confusing as each state and territory in Australia has its own planning laws. Every council, whilst generally have similar responsibilities and regulations, has its own processes for assessing applications and granting approvals.

The difference in terminology between New South Wales and Victoria is set out below:

Type of Document / Approval NSW Victoria
Application to construct new dwellings, demolition of old dwelling, subdivisions and change of use of dwellings. Development Application Planning Application
Statement that a particular use of development (subdivision, buildings and works) may proceed on a specific piece of land. A DA or permit may be specific to a person or operator and is always subject to a time limit and expires under specified circumstances. The responsible authority may impose conditions when granting a DA or Planning Permit. Development Approval Planning Permit
Document which signify that a registered building surveyor has approved documentation for the proposed building work prior to commencement. The Building Act 1993 and Building Regulations 2006 legislate that most building work is subject to the issuing of this document and includes renovations, demolitions and removals. This process is to regulate the standard of construction required to meet all local building code regulations. Construction Certificate Building Permit
Document stating how the land is zoned and is usually required for the purchase and sale of properties. Planning certificate Planning certificate

It is important to not confuse planning permits with building permits. Building permits relate to the methods and standard of construction of a building whilst planning permits relate more to factors such as appearance and impact on the environment, streetscape and neighbours.

An overview of the process for obtaining approval for a Development Application or  Planning Application is set out below:

Step 1- Pre-application tasks

  • Discuss proposed plans with council planner
  • Establish views of neighbours
  • Consider seeking advice of professionals – architect, town planner or project manager. One such firm which offers property development advice and management services is Brutal Art + Design. This company consists of professional builders, architects and designers which can assist property owners with conducting site assessment and dealing with council regulations and approval.

Step – Submit Development / Planning Application

  • Lodge application, building plans and all relevant supplementary documents with council
  • Written notification from council of receipt of fees and application and planning officer assigned

Step – Council review of Application

  • Planning officer makes preliminary assessment, checks plans against town planning regulations
  • Formal request for more info, modifications to design
  • Consultation with other local authorities eg utilities

Step 4 – Advertisement of proposed development

  • Advertisement signage on site for at least 14 days
  • Written notice to neighbours and hearing of parties who may object to proposed development

Step 5 – Council assessment of Application

  • Review any objections and orchestrate mediation
  • Review planning scheme provisions
  • Discuss and negotiate findings with applicant

Step 6 – Council decision

a) Approval with conditions

b) Decision with conditions

c) Rejection

To obtain a Planning Permit in the state of Victoria, it is essential that building plans comply to Rescode, which is Victoria’s residential design and building code. Some key elements of the code include the following:

  • Preserving the neighbourhood character is the starting point for all permits.
  • Dwellings must not overlook or overshadow neighbours.
  • Environmental standards must be met to maximise sunlight.
  • Maximum height of new houses reduced from 12 to 9 metres.
  • Front fences are not permitted to be more than 1.5 metres.
  • Councils may prevent removal of trees.
  • Planning applications must include site analysis.

A checklist of Rescode requirements include, among other things, the following common requirements to be satisfied by any proposed building plans:

Regulation Item Requirement
408 & 409 Street setback Max: 1/3 of allotment depth
Min: Lesser of 9 metres or average of adjoining properties
410 Building height Max: 9 metres
411 Site coverage Max: 60%
412 Permeability Min: 20% permeable area
413 Parking Min: 2 car spaces with minimum sizes (in metres) of ‘6 x 3.5’ & ‘4.9 x 2.6’. However combined width can be reduced to 5.5
414 Side/rear setbacks Max: Up to 3.6 metres on boundary, 1 metre + 300mm/metre over 3.6 metres, or 2 metres + 1metre/metre over 6.9 metres
415 Boundary walls Max: 3.6 metres high with average of 3 metres
Max: 10 metres + 25% of remaining boundary length
416 Existing windows Min: For walls over 3 metres a setback of half the wall height from the window (otherwise 1 metre), with a 3 m2 light courts provided to the window
417 Existing north windows (within 3m) Min: 1 metre + 600mm/metre over 3.6 metres, or 3 metres + 1 metre/metre over 6.9 metres
418 Overshadowing Cannot shadow minimum recreational open space to adjacent properties (including shadows from other buildings), where minimum recreational open space 40 m2 with minimum 3 metre dimension (or 75% of open space if lesser) and usually secluded
419 Overlooking No overlooking of secluded open space or habitable windows within 9 metres, (taken at height of 1.7 metres and 45 degrees from edge of windows)
420 New windows Min: 3 m2 light courts with min 1 metre dimension
421 Open space Min: Lesser of 80 m2 or 20% with minimum secluded open space of 25 m2 with minimum 3 metres at side or rear
424 & 427 Front fences Max: 1.2 metres if within 9 metres of street intersection, else 1.5 metres and 2 metres for declared roads
425 Side / rear fences Max: 2 metres. Note for fences exceeding 2 metres see regulations 4.26 to 4.30 that have similar Rescode requirements to those relating to buildings as above.

Rescode came into force in August 2001 and applies to all residential development in the state of Victoria.

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