dodgy builders
Having an illegally built structure on your property can be a nightmare, warns Jules Lewin. Image Supplied.
  • Illegal structures are those not authorised by council and local authorities
  • You will be responsible for any damage caused to any person as a result thereof
  • Avoid it happening to you by instructing a lawyer or settlement agent

If there is an illegal structure on your property, or you build one after settlement you will be responsible for it. Illegal structures can be dangerous and may cause injury to you and others.

What is an Illegal Structure?

An illegal structure is a structure on your property that has not been approved by your shire, council or local authority, or does not have planning approval.  Planning, building and development laws in WA normally require a home owner to obtain these approvals

For example, you would ordinarily need building approval for extensions, carports, patio, bungalows, granny flats, decks, extra room. Without the necessary approval, it is deemed an illegal structure.

How do I ensure there are no illegal structures on my property?

You should instruct your settlement agent or solicitor before you sign a contract (particularly in older areas) to insert a condition in the contract that it is subject to you obtaining a report from the local shire. The report should outline any building activities on the property and if a building licence was issued for the structure.

If there are illegal structures, you can get out of the contract due to the condition not being met. If there is no condition to this effect, you may run into some problems.

Alternatively, you may be able to ask for a reduction in the purchase price for the cost of rectifying the illegal structure.

You may also be able to apply for retrospective approvals of the illegal structure. This is at the council’s discretion and is not guaranteed. In essence, this means the council may approve the illegal structure, subject to obtaining an engineer or other independent report. If approval is granted, the structure which was initially illegal will no longer be illegal.

You may want to consider getting Title Insurance, which provides cover for any structures or renovations built without council approval. My next article will explain this.

You are responsible  

On settlement you become responsible for the property and its structures (legal or illegal). It is important that you choose a professional who will ensure your interests are protected and do your homework for you. This may include fixing, demolishing, applying for retrospective approval of the illegal structure to mitigate the chances of causing any injury to yourself and/or others.


Before making any decisions, please do your own independent research, taking into account your own situation. This article does not purport to provide legal advice. See our Terms of Use.

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