Can I use my shed as a permanent dwelling?

Usually, buildings like sheds won’t be approved for use as a home because the way they’re constructed may contravene residential building regulations.

lf you are considering building a shed with a view to using it as a dwelling one day, it is important that you seek professional advice before you build. This could save you a lot of time and money.

If you want to build a new dwelling your first choice should be to construct a home that fully complies with building regulations.

The following information on sheds (Class 10a building) and dwellings (Class 1a building) may assist you in considering your options carefully.

What are the building permit requirements?

Most building works require a building permit, including the following:

  • construction of a shed (class 10a building) greater than 10 m2 in area
  • construction of a dwelling (class 1a)
  • to change the use of an existing building from a shed (class 10a) to a dwelling (class 1a).

Even if you want to use the shed as a dwelling temporarily, you must still have a building permit for its construction.

For more information, please contact council’s Building Unit.

Can I retain a building used as temporary accommodation on my site permanently?

Whether you can permanently keep a building used as temporary accommodation on your property depends on whether you had a building permit for its original construction and how you plan to use the building in future. You may need to get a building and planning permit for a change of use or for works to meet safety and amenity standards.

To assist you in determining whether you may be able to retain your building permanently, a number of different scenarios are provided below. Further advice can be obtained from the building and planning departments of your local council.

Planning and building legislation contain provisions relating to sheds on properties where they are not associated with a dwelling. Further advice can be provided by Building Services staff.

Building legislation issues that will affect your change of use application

Council cannot issue a building and occupancy permit after a building has been constructed, except where additional works to the building are planned.

If you want to change the use of a building, you can apply for building and occupancy permits.

The building surveyor will consider the building’s:

  • structural integrity
  • health and amenity
  • fire safety.

The following scenarios may help you understand the factors that may allow or prevent you from retaining your temporary accommodation or shed.

What if I built a shed without a permit and want to retain it as a shed?

A building surveyor cannot legally provide a building permit for a shed after it’s been built. If you built a shed without a permit and want to keep using it as a shed, speak with a council or private building surveyor about your options.

I have a building permit for my shed but want to change it to a permanent dwelling

If you have a building permit for the shed you built and want to use it as a permanent dwelling, you can apply for a change of use permit. To get the permit, the shed needs to meet the standards set for a dwelling (class 1a building).

You may also need to apply to council for a planning permit.

Changing the use of a building can be expensive. Possible costs include:

  • plans of the proposed building works drawn by a draftsperson
  • replacing concrete slabs, footings and other building requirements
  • meeting fire safety standards if building in bushfire prone areas
  • meeting energy efficiency requirements like installing insulation.

A building permit will be required for the works to convert the shed to a dwelling and an occupancy permit issued upon completion.

I do not have a building permit for my shed but want to use it as a dwelling

It can be difficult to change a shed to a dwelling, if you didn’t get a building permit for your shed because the details of the shed’s construction may be unclear.

Building surveyors cannot legally issue a building permit (or an occupancy permit) for a dwelling after the building has been constructed. There may be steps that can be taken to change the building’s use but it is neither simple nor straightforward.

The municipal building surveyor (MBS) could issue a building notice (show cause) and possibly follow up with a building order to carry out building work, and if satisfied could allow a structure to remain. However, the owners will not have a building permit or occupancy permit.

If given the go ahead to make the changes, there will be a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure the structure meets regulatory requirements, including:

  • prepare site and building plans
  • prepare reports on energy rating, soil and structural engineering design
  • bushfire construction requirements
  • energy efficiency requirements
  • slab requirements
  • wall and roof framing
  • damp proofing under concrete floors
  • termite protection
  • minimum ceiling heights
  • minimum window sizes
  • cooking, laundry and bathroom facilities
  • certificates of compliance for electrical, plumbing and glazing
  • septic tank system
  • hard wired smoke alarms
  • steps, landings and balustrades that meet code.

If you are considering changing the use of a shed to a dwelling, when the shed has been built without a permit, it is strongly recommended that you consult council’s Building Surveyor, and seek financial, building and regulatory advice before making a decision. It may not be cost effective.