Common questions asked by certifiers and those seeking to become a certifier

Common questions received at the Building Professionals Board, asked by accredited certifiers and those seeking to become a certifier.

Find out more about:

Accreditation, application and renewal

What forms and documents do I need to submit to apply for/ renew my accreditation?

The application for accreditation form and renewal forms list all the documents required to be submitted with your form. You must also submit a statutory declaration that is witnessed by a solicitor or Justice of the Peace.

What payment methods are accepted for accreditation fees?

You may pay by credit card or direct bank deposit/ EFT when you send in your application, or contact the Board to make a credit card payment over the phone.

What is the status of my accreditation application/ renewal?

Contact the Board about the status of your application.

How can I update my details on the certifier register?

Please contact the Board and we will update your details as soon as possible.

Can I put my accreditation on hold if temporarily unemployed?

You can ask the Board to voluntarily suspend your accreditation for up to 12 months.

Read more about CPD requirements and insurance during a voluntary suspension and download the application form.

What’s the process to become an accredited certifier and how long does it take?

Read about how to apply for accreditation with the Building Professionals Board.

Your application form won't be assessed unless all required supporting documents are attached. To avoid delay, provide everything in the first instance.

What skills, qualifications and experience do I need to become an accredited certifier?

The skills, qualifications and experience you need to become a certifier differ, according to which category of accreditation you are applying for, and are set out in the Board’s accreditation scheme.

You can also read about criteria, training and experience requirements. Once accredited, you must also complete mandatory professional development activities each year in order to maintain your accreditation.

Do council trainees have to meet the core performance criteria to be accredited by the Board?

Yes. ALL certifiers (and applicants), in any category of accreditation, must meet the core performance criteria set out in the accreditation scheme.

What does the Board’s accreditation exam involve?

Read our exam information sheet to find out more about the Board’s accreditation exam.

When will the Board hold the next accreditation exam?

Contact the Board to find out when the next accreditation exam will be held.

Why and when would the Board require a certifier to undertake an assessment?

The Board may require an assessment at any time if there are concerns about a certifier's competence or ability. Triggers could include a number of complaints being made about a certifier, or a specific incident. However, there are no restrictions on the circumstances under which an assessment may be required (Building Professionals Act 2005 section 9A).

An assessment may also be required as part of the process to apply for accreditation as a certifier (Building Professionals Act 2005 section 5(3)).

Is council accreditation affected by local government mergers?

No. Whether or not the council you work for will be amalgamated with other councils, your accreditation will remain valid. Read more

Certification practice

How can I obtain advice about legislation, policies, standards or the BCA?
Who can apply for a development certificate and what documents are required?

Go to lessons identified from audits and click 'lessons identified when assessing applications' for more information.

Does a council certifier need to have a delegation to undertake certification work?

Under section 74A of the Building Professionals Act 2005, councils must ensure any certification of building work that is done for or on behalf of the council is done by an accredited person. Councils need to ensure an accredited council certifier has been provided with the appropriate authority or delegation to undertake certification work.

Yes. Before building work starts, the PCA has a statutory duty to check the principal contractor has the appropriate licence.

Some PCAs may rely on the builder's licence details listed on a home warranty insurance certificate and/or application forms, but these details may have since changed. For instance, a condition could have been imposed on the licence limiting the builder to work that falls below the threshold requiring home warranty insurance.

Service NSW has a free online licence check of residential builders, tradespeople and owner-builders. It only takes a moment to verify a licence class, currency and any conditions imposed and you are recommended to keep a printout for your records.

If building work starts and it is subsequently found that the principal contractor didn’t hold the appropriate licence, the PCA's conduct may be investigated by the Board.

More information

What if an A3 certifier is asked to certify a development that uses alternative solutions?

A3 certifiers must not issue certificates for a development that uses alternative solutions to comply with the BCA.

A3 certifiers can avoid potential problems by:

  1. not entering into any contract for PCA work if the proposed development will use alternative solutions, and referring the applicant to an A1 or A2 certifier who can act as the PCA
  2. refusing to issue an occupation certificate if an alternative solution (contrary to the approved plans) is put in place during construction*, and advising the applicant they need to either comply via the deemed-to-satisfy provisions, or find a replacement (A1 or A2) PCA
  3. if the procedure in the above dot point isn’t followed, issuing a notice of intention to issue an order to comply with the development consent or to cease work
  4. if appropriate, reporting the builder to NSW Fair Trading.

Under Schedule 1 of the Building Professionals Regulation, A3 certifiers can ONLY issue a complying development certificate, construction certificate or occupation certificate for class 1 and 10 buildings if the building meets the BCA performance requirements by complying with the deemed-to-satisfy provisions (not by any alternative solution).

The Building Professionals Act 2005 sets a maximum penalty of $33,000 for issuing a certificate if not authorised to do so.

*Note on the second dot point above: the applicant will also need to obtain a modified construction certificate (and potentially a modified development consent) or a modified complying development certificate, before the work is carried out.

What is a certifier’s role in relation to BASIX compliance?
What standards are applied to certify a swimming pool that was constructed without approval?

A council or certifier may sometimes be asked to issue a certificate of compliance under the Swimming Pools Act 1992 for a swimming pool that was constructed without development consent.

Whether or not the pool's construction was authorised, when assessing an application for a certificate of compliance, you must apply the prescribed standards that were in force when the pool was built, or when the barrier was substantially altered or rebuilt.

Also, councils retain their enforcement powers in relation to unauthorised development, regardless of whether a certificate of compliance has been issued.

What if a development is affected by a voluntary planning agreement?

Download an information sheet that describes the requirements for pdf certifying a development affected by a voluntary planning agreement (PDF | 37.4K).

Also, refer to clause 25E(2)(g) of the EP&A Regulation.

When and how are the Premises Standards applied?

Read more about the Commonwealth Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards and download practice advice.

Professional indemnity insurance for certifiers (including council certifiers)

What are the insurance requirements for certifiers?

The Board's information sheet describes the insurance requirements for certifiers.

Also, go to checklists and forms and click 'professional indemnity insurance certificate of currency' for more about the information required by the Board about your insurance.

Do I have to send in my insurance certificate of currency with my renewal for accreditation?

Yes, but keep in mind the renewal date for your professional indemnity insurance may differ from the renewal date for your accreditation as a certifier. It is your responsibility to maintain currency for both your insurance and your accreditation.

Go to checklists and forms and click 'professional indemnity insurance certificate of currency' for more about the required information.

Are council certifiers covered by the council’s general insurance for personal liability?

Council certifiers are covered by the council's insurance for personal liability (under section 731 of the Local Government Act 1993), provided they are employees of council and are performing their certification duties for and on behalf of the council.

Certifiers who are working for council on a consultant or contract basis require their own professional indemnity insurance.

What if a contract asks a certifier to waive Part 4 of the Civil Liability Act?

Part 4 of the Civil Liability Act 2002 relates to proportionate liability.

Waiving this may void your professional indemnity insurance, depending on your insurance policy. If so, you can't carry out the work, because you must be insured at all times as a condition of your accreditation.

Read more about written contracts, insurance and the Civil Liability Act.

Written contracts for certification work

Why were the requirements for written contracts and upfront payment introduced?

Written contracts are intended to ensure:

  • applicants choose their own certifying authority
  • applicants have direct contact with the certifier (rather than just through the builder)
  • applicants know what services the certifying authority will provide and who will carry out the work
  • certifiers give all necessary information directly to the applicant before any work is undertaken
  • certifiers are paid for their work (some certifiers have been threatened with non-payment unless they issue a particular certificate or within a certain time, but if a certifier needs to refuse to issue a certificate, they must be able to do so without worrying that they won't be paid)
  • applicants understand that paying a fee doesn't guarantee that a certificate will be issued.
Is a contract required for all certification work?

A written contract is required for:

For subdivision and strata certificate applications, the need for a contract depends on the situation. If a council intends to have the application determined by an accredited certifier employed or engaged by the council, then a written contract is required. If the application is assigned to a person who is not an accredited certifier, then a contract is not required.

The Board encourages the use of written contracts irrespective of whether one is required by legislation.

Are template contracts available?

The Board's template contracts (available under 'Checklists and forms') comply with the requirements of section 73A of the Building Professionals Act 2005 and clause 19A of the Building Professionals Regulation 2007.

You don't have to use the templates and can use your own format, provided it meets legislative requirements. You can also include additional matters in the contract that are not inconsistent with the legislation.

The templates don’t address others' responsibilities – why?

Councils and certifiers may set out the obligations of the applicant in their contracts.

Section 73A of the Building Professionals Act 2005 requires a contract between the accredited certifier and a person for whom the certifier is to undertake certification work. It does not cover work between the builder and the applicant.

The Home Building Act 1989 contains provisions which require written contracts between property owners and builders, for carrying out residential building work.

Who should the contract be with?

Certifiers or their employer must enter into a contract that complies with the Building Professionals Regulation 2007 before undertaking certification work for a person.

Before determining an application for a construction certificate or undertaking the functions of a principal certifying authority, a certifying authority must have a contract with the person who has the benefit of the development consent.

Under clause 139(1A) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000, only a person who is eligible to appoint a principal certifying authority for a development can apply for a construction certificate. Under section 109E(1) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, only the person with the benefit of the development consent or a complying development certificate can appoint a principal certifying authority.

Is it only the client who can sign the contract?

Yes. The Building Professionals Regulation 2007 provides that the contract must be signed by the actual parties to the contract. The builder or another person acting as an agent for the client cannot sign the contract.

If the client is a company, the contract must be 'appropriately executed', which may mean someone with delegation must sign the contract, such as a director or company secretary.

The requirement for a client, rather than an agent, to sign ensures the client knows who the certifier is and is aware of the terms of the agreement.

  • Councils and certifiers should use their usual practices to establish an applicant's identity when entering a contract.
  • A copy of the certifier's or council's contract should be available along with the relevant application or appointment form.
  • A contract can be used to notify the applicant of required inspections, provided the principal certifying authority is in a position at that time to properly determine the inspections that are to be carried out.
When does the contract have to be signed?

The contract should be signed before an application for a development certificate or a principal certifying authority appointment is lodged. The application or appointment can be lodged immediately after the contract is signed.

Note: an application for a development certificate is lodged when a completed application is received by the certifier or council. The application is determined when the certifying authority determines whether to issue the certificate or refuse the application.

Is the contract required when an application is lodged, or determined, or just before a certificate is issued?

The contract should be signed before an application for a development certificate is lodged (not determined). An application may be lodged immediately after the contract is signed.

Note: an application for a development certificate is taken to be determined when the certifying authority determines whether to issue the certificate or refuse the application.

If various certifiers work on a job, should the contract be varied for each new certifier?

An individual certifier should be nominated to ensure the applicant knows who is working on their development (whether for certification work that involves an application for a construction certificate, complying development certificate or appointment of a principal certifying authority).

This doesn't preclude later decisions to substitute another certifier if the first certifier cannot carry out the work.

For certification work that involves the carrying out of inspections, if it is not clear who will be carrying out the inspections when the contract is entered into, the employer may provide a list in the contract of those who are likely to undertake the work. The employer should provide the client with the details of the person who will carry out the inspections which this becomes known.

Is a new contract required to modify a complying development certificate?

Yes. An application to modify a complying development certificate is considered in the same way as the original application, so a contract is required.

Parties may wish to include provisions for the modification of the complying development certificate in the original contract, though a modification would not normally be expected at this time. If the need to modify the complying development certificate isn't caused by the certifying authority, it's reasonable for another contract to be entered into for the modification, and a further application fee paid.

Are multiple contracts required for partial (staged) construction certificates?

No. One contract can cover multiple construction certificates if agreed by the certifier and their client, as long as the contract includes provisions to cover this agreement. Under clause 19A of the Building Professionals Regulation 2007, payment for each application must be made at or before the time the application is lodged. For longer-term jobs, a series of contracts may be appropriate.

Note: an application for a development certificate is taken to be lodged when a completed application form is received by the certifier or council.

What information should be attached to the contract?

The required information is set out in clause 19A of the Building Professionals Regulation 2007.

Among other things, the contract should contain the details of the parities, the required services and fees, the identifying particulars of any plans, and specifications or other documents the subject of the relevant development consent or any related Part 4A certificate.

This requirement only relates to documents that exist when the contract is made. For example, where the development consent has been granted and the contract relates to an application for a construction certificate, details of the development application plans and specifications must be included, but not of the construction certificate plans as they would not have been assessed.

The Building Professionals Regulation 2007 requires that a contract must be accompanied by any applicable document containing information about the statutory obligations of accredited certifiers that is published by the Board for the purposes of a contract. See the next question for more information.

What about the 'statutory obligations of certifiers' document required by clause 19A(5)?

Clause 19A(5) of the Building Professionals Regulation 2007 states 'the contract must be accompanied by any applicable document containing information about the statutory obligations of accredited certifiers that is published by the Board for the purposes of this clause and available on its website'.

The Board has only published such a document for category E1 (swimming pool) certifiers who are authorised to carry out minor works to make safe swimming pool barriers: Important information for pool owners.

For all other contracts for certification work, the Board has not published such a document. However, it's in the best interest of certifiers to ensure their clients understand a certifier's statutory role and obligations.

Many complaints about certifiers arise when a homeowner or neighbour mistakenly attributes responsibilities to certifiers beyond those required by legislation. If your clients understand the scope of your role this can help reduce the risk of complaints.

How can a contract be made if an application is received by mail?

Certifiers and councils should advertise that a contract is required before or when an application is lodged or a principal certifying authority appointed. The contract template should be included with the application or appointment form.

Can a contract include matters other than those in the Building Professionals Regulation?

Yes. Certifiers and councils can amend their contracts to include other matters provided these are not inconsistent with the Regulation. Some examples are a dispute resolution clause, or matters related to AS4122-2000 (general conditions of contract for engagement of consultants).

The Board's contract templates (available under 'Checklists and forms') only set out the matters to be included under the Building Professionals Regulation 2007.

For partial (staged) construction certificates, can payment of fees be staged?

Yes. Under the Building Professionals Regulation 2007, if the contract involves the determination of an application for a construction certificate, the contract needs to require the payment for that determination to be paid on or before the lodgement of the application. The fees for subsequent construction certificates would need to be paid on or before lodgement of each application.

If a certifier ceases to operate, what happens to fees paid for work that can't be done?

As for other business contracts, the contract should provide for a refund under certain circumstances.

What evidence of payment is acceptable?

Certifiers and councils should use their usual practices to determine if payment is made.

Clause 19A(4) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 requires a contract to require upfront payment to determine an application for a development certificate or to carry out the functions of a principal certifying authority. Payment must be on or before the lodgement of the application or the commencement of work as a principal certifying authority.

  • A contract is to require fees and charges (except for work arising from unforeseen contingencies) for determining an application for a development certificate, or carrying out principal certifying authority functions, to be paid on or before lodging the application or commencing to carry out those functions.
  • The payment of fees for staged construction certificate applications can be staged under the contract. The contract should require the payment for each to be paid on or before the lodgement of each application.
  • As with other business contracts, a contract should make provision for the return of fees if an accredited certifier loses their accreditation or otherwise ceases to operate.
Is a copy of the contract required to be sent to council?

No. The contract is just between the certifier and the applicant. It is not part of the public record.

Written contracts: specific questions for councils

Do council certifiers need to use contracts?

Yes, but the certifier's employer (the council) should enter into the contract instead of the individual certifier.

As the council is the certifying authority or principal certifying authority for council certification work, the contract should be executed on behalf of the council in accordance with its own internal delegations and procedures.

Is a contract with a council entered into by the council or the individual certifier?

Like contracts for other council work, the council will most likely enter into the contract instead of the individual certifier.

How do councils include certifier's details on a contract if a certifier hasn't been assigned to the job?

Councils should include the details of the person expected to be assigned the work and include a provision in the contract that the council will notify the applicant in writing if the certifier changes.

What if a council is the applicant?

There must be at least two separate parties to a contract. As a council cannot enter into a contract with itself, a contract is not required where the council is the applicant.

Under the Building Professionals Act 2005, certification work includes carrying out inspections under section 22C of the Swimming Pools Act 1992 (SP Act) and issuing certificates of compliance under that Act.

Certifiers must have a contract before making a determination on an application for a certificate of compliance under the SP Act. This also applies to council certifiers. However, if a council has someone other than a certifier to inspect and certify a pool, the council is not required to have a contract under the Building Professionals Act 2005. A contract is also not required for an inspection carried out under section 22B of the SP Act.

Fire sprinklers in residential aged care facilities

What approval/ certification is needed before a fire sprinkler system can be installed in a residential aged care facility?

A construction certificate or complying development certificate must be in place before installing/ retrofitting a fire sprinkler system in a residential aged care facility.

For more information, the Department of Planning and Environment provides resources such as videos, an interactive map, e-bulletin and advisory notes, or phone (02) 8575 4068.

Conflict of interest provisions for certifiers

What could be considered or perceived as a conflict of interest?

Read about conflicts of interest as defined under the Building Professionals Act 2005.

What are the current exemptions to conflicts of interest?

Read about exemptions to the conflict of interest provisions, permitted under the Building Professionals Act 2005.

How do I apply for a conflict of interest exemption?

Read about conflicts of interest and how to apply for an exemption.

How did the conflict of interest provisions change from 18 October 2013?

On 18 October 2013, the conflict of interest provisions changed for council certifiers. Go to the conflicts of interest page for more information.

Why were the conflict of interest provisions changed for council certifiers on 18 October 2013?

The conflict of interest amendments were aimed to increase transparency and confidence in the certification system, and remove any perception that council certifiers have unlimited authority to certify the developments of the council or other council employees.

The $5 million limit means that only large developments (which generally have more impact on the community) will require independent assessment by external certifiers. It balances the need for transparency without imposing unnecessary costs on councils or council employees.

The new exemption allows a council to use its internal employees to design/ construct a development such as an amenity block or depot, without then having to engage an external certifier to certify the developments.