Principal Certifier appointment & notifying commencement of work

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1. Overview

Before starting any building or subdivision work that needs approval, you must appoint a Principal Certifier.

Then you must notify the Principal Certifier and Council that you are planning on starting work. 

Both of these must be done using the NSW Planning Portal and at least 2 days before work starts on site.

2. Principal Certifier Appointment

The Principal Certifier has the regulatory oversight of the project, will carry out inspections at certain stages of the work and will be the one who assesses your application for an Occupation Certificate.

They are not a project manager or site supervisor.

You can find out more about the role of certifiers on the NSW Fair Trading page 'What certifiers Do'.

Information sheets explaining roles and responsibilities of certifiers are required to be attached to the contracts you sign when you engage a certifier or engage a contractor (for home building work over $5,000).

Certifiers are public officials and are subject to strong code of conduct provisions and conflict of interest restrictions.

Heavy penalties (including imprisonment) apply for offering or agreeing to give a benefit of any kind (for example, cash or favours) in exchange for a certifier not acting impartially.

Who can I appoint as Principal Certifier?

You can appoint either your local Council or a private certifier.

If you have a builder or other contractor, they are not allowed to appoint the certifier for you or make you use a particular certifier.

They may recommend a certifier, but that is all. You have a free choice to use the certifier you want.

Most people use the same certifier who issued their CC or CDC for the project.

When you approach a certifier, they will check if they have any conflict of interest in carrying out certification work for you.

If they do have a conflict of interest (or a potential one), they may not be able to accept appointment as Principal Certifier.

The certifier will let you know if this is the case.

How do I appoint a Principal Certifier?

From 01 July 2021, all Principal Certifier appointments must be made using the NSW Planning Portal.

If you have not used the Planning Portal before, you will need to register.

There are Quick Reference Guides on the NSW Planning Portal website explaining step-by-step how to register and how to navigate around the portal.

If your DA, CC and/or CDC were not lodged using the portal, click the "New" menu in the left-hand sidebar and then choose "Post Consent Certificate (CC, OC, SC, PCA, SWC)".

If you lodged your DA, CC or CDC using the portal, navigate to that application first, which may be in your "Active Work" or "Completed Work" dashboards. Once you are at that application, click the "Request related application" button and choose "Request Certificate".

3.  Notice of Commencement of work

The final step before you start the approved building work is to notify your Principal Certifier and the Council that you are planning on starting.

This must be done at least 2 days before work starts.

Why do I have to notify?

The notice is the signal for your Principal Certifier and Council to do some final (mandatory) checks to make sure nothing has been missed that would stop you from getting down to work.

Some of the things to be checked are that:

  • The approved DA and CC (or CDC) cover the work you are going to do
  • A Principal Contractor or owner-builder has been nominated to be in charge of the work
  • The Principal Contractor is appropriately licensed or the owner-builder has a permit (where required)
  • The required signage has been erected on the site
  • Any conditions on the approval (DA or CDC) that need to be complied with before work starts have been checked off
  • You have been told what inspections will be required
  • Applicable fees/levies have been paid.

The minimum 2 days' notice is required so that these checks can be performed.

How do I notify?

From 01 July 2021, this notification is handled through the NSW Planning Portal.

Once your Principal Certifier has accepted their appointment on the portal, that application should sit in your "Active Work" dashboard.

Click on the reference number to enter into that application record.

From there, click the 'Actions' button at the top of the page and select "Intention to commence work".

This will open the relevant form. Enter the details required and submit.

The portal will automatically send the notice to both Council and the Principal Certifier (where Council is not the Principal Certifier).

A screenshot of the NSW Planning Portal showing the intention to commence works button in the actions menu.

What happens next?

On or after the day you entered in the notice, you and/or your contractor can get started.

If there are any issues with the final checks that the Principal Certifier and/or Council do, they will contact you before then.

Make sure you have passed on to any contractors or workers at what stages the Principal Certifier needs to carry out inspections and plan ahead for them.

You need to let your Principal Certifier know at least 2 days ahead that you will need an inspection.

If Council is your Principal Certifier, you can request an inspection here.