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Discover the crucial role of local councils in Sydney home renovations, and why avoiding council approval can have costly consequences.

Sydney Home Renovations & Council: How To Be Sure You're Safe

Sydney home renovations & council


Renovating your home can be a great way to add value and improve your overall living experience. It can be a truly life-changing investment for you and your family. With the help of a professional home renovations company, you can be sure that you get all the help you need – from design ideas, to project management, construction and navigating council guidelines.

However, home renovations are not without their challenges and complexities, resulting in a lot of questions from homeowners seeking to go down this path. One question we are often asked about home renovation projects is, “What are our obligations with the local council when it comes to renovating our home?

Well, good news – we’re very experienced in navigating council requirements, and we’re happy to help you with this, too!

Why Do Council Need to be Aware of Home Renovations?

While many people have horror stories about dealing with council, the reality is that they serve an important purpose in our society. In this context, they exist to ensure a balance with our environment and the community in general.

Councils also help preserve historical or heritage buildings, and ensure parks and services are maintained. It’s fair to say that without councils, our local streets and buildings would look much worse!

Do You Need to Notify Council?

Do you need to notify council about your Sydney home renovation?

When you want to start a home extension project, one thing you need to work out first is whether you need to involve the council in any way. Council involvement is usually required if you’re doing any structural moves – such as changing any walls and / or window sizes that affect the appearance to the outside of the house, changing the number of buildings which are on the land, and a number of other factors.

Once you’ve determined exactly what needs to go through to council, then you’ll need to clarify whether it will require a CDC or a DA. You’ve probably heard these acronyms before but may not know what they stand for.

What Does CDC, DA and SEPP Stand for?


A CDC is a Complying Development Certificate which you’ll need for residential developments. The scope of a CDC is outlined on the Service NSW website, and includes:

      • New homes

      • Additional living areas, such as granny flats

      • Attached or detached developments

      • Renovations (listed as “alterations and additions”) to the primary or secondary dwellings

    • Demolition

By walking through our standard home renovation process, we can determine if a CDC or DA is required and help you by preparing all the necessary paperwork. This will include the renovation design plans, site and structural plans, your home’s building specs, and so on.


When it comes to Sydney construction, DA stands for Development Application (no, not “District Attorney”!)

Most people want to stay away from a DA simply because that goes directly through council… which for many people, triggers strong concerns around time delays and bureaucratic box-ticking.


When it comes to NSW construction, SEPP stands for State Environmental Planning Policies. These are various policies which dictate the kinds of developments you can carry out on your land. On top of SEPP consideration, you may also have to consider LEPs – or Local Environment Plans.

Practical Use of a CDC or DA in Home Renovations

There are specialist certifiers who can determine whether you need a CDC or DA. A certifier can look at your plans (for example, a one-bedroom extension). These plans may seem fairly straightforward – the boundaries may be correct under SEPP, the windows may be correct under SEPP height guidelines, and so on.

The certifier may tell you that the project can proceed under a CDC. They may issue a Complying Development Certificate, avoiding any need to go to council. In this scenario, the certifier technically takes council’s place.

There may be a reason for the certifier advise a DA is required, if an anomaly is identified. For example, let’s say the extension is 800 millimetres off the boundary when it should be 900. If there are a significant number of other homes in the area which are already 800mm off the boundary, the certifier may advise that you’re no longer within the SEPP guidelines of 900 but you’ve got a case to appeal.

In that case, the certifier might suggest submitting a DA so they can negotiate with council, on the grounds of being consistent with existing homes in your area.

The Cost of Not Advising Council About Your Home Renovation in Sydney

It may be tempting to keep your home renovation project to yourself, to avoid the impact of working with council. However, this would be a very risky decision with potentially very serious implications:

      • Heavy fines – Your local council may issue you with a hefty fine, and / or seek legal action against you, if you do not obtain necessary permits or are found to be in breach of building codes

      • Legal liability – You may be held legally responsible for any accidents, damages or other negative impacts which occur due to your unauthorised renovations

    • Forced reversal – You may be instructed to completely undo your renovation work, being responsible for all associated costs

No reputable renovator will ever suggest this as an option, so you should forget any thought


Summarising Council Considerations for Sydney Renovations

Moving walls, extending balconies, installing more windows or any other activity which may impact the environment, your neighbors, or society in general, can typically proceed under a CDC if it complies within the State Environmental Planning Policies.

Otherwise, chances are high that it will need to proceed via a Development Application.

Not surprisingly, council involvement is normally required only for partial or total home renovations. It’s not likely that a Sydney bathroom renovation or interior makeover will need to consider council at all.