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The end of Interim Occupation Certificates

Posted by Nicholas Achurch | 19 November 2019 | Civil Contractors and Construction

Interim Occupation Certificates cease to exist from 1 December 2019 but what replaces them? More stringent certification processes perhaps makes builds safer, but at what cost?

An amendment to Part 6 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EPA) will end the use of Interim Occupation Certificates (IOC’s) from 1 December 2019.

After the ‘Lambert Review’ in 2015 It was identified that IOCs allowed a margin for problematic uncertified works, causing a number of disputes, lapses in process and unnecessary defects. In essence, an IOC allows the use of part of a building for staged occupation before critical stage inspections and final certifications were provided.

The logic follows that upon completion of the building these inspections and certifications would occur and a Final Occupation Certificate (OC) would be issued. However, this was not always the case in practice, and in the emerging climate of the industry and growing awareness around poor or delayed certification issues, it appears this was no longer acceptable. Further, the complexity and inconsistency of obtaining final certifications would often leave developments without an OC and just an IOC.

The object of doing away with IOCs is essentially to eliminate shortfalls in certification of builds that might otherwise be overlooked at the time of a staged completion (as that part of the building would be occupied).

Staged occupation of buildings remains

The good news is that staged occupation can continue as OCs will be issued for staged sections of in the IOC’s stead, only now each part of an incomplete building to be occupied must obtain the relevant certifications in order to meet full compliance with the BCA and other relevant laws. Only then will an OC be issued. Usage and occupation of the building will be restricted to the certified area until the entire building is complete and certified.

This process will be repeated for each stage with subsequent applications for each until completion. Obviously, this will add some cost to the construction process for staged builds.

Each OC obtained will have conditions and usage restrictions applicable to the portion of the building that is to be occupied. These restrictions will continue until the final OC is issued for all stages.

Implications for developments – more time, more money (but safer builds)

These changes provide a mechanism for the periodic enforcement of development consent conditions and certification standards by providing a mandatory framework under which works are to be certified to allow progressive occupation in larger developments. Whilst this is a positive in the sense that there are greater assurances of compliant work at completion of a development, it adds significant complexity in terms of time and cost for staged projects when seeking partial occupation of a site.

This is a more stringent regulatory framework for staged occupation of dwellings and as such, for any staged project or requirement to occupy a section of a building we suggest as follows:

  1. Obtain the relevant final certifications as soon as practicable if you intend to clear a stage for occupation.
  2. Always apply for an OC as soon as well prior to the completion of the stage, so as not to delay its usage or affect the progress of the remainder of the works.
  3. Make sure your contracts contain proper provisions for certifications in staged builds and in particular, provide for relevant EOT’s for any delay in being able to obtain relevant certifications that are not caused by you.

An occupation certificate will not be issued unless the stage is fully compliant with the BCA for its relevant classification. It flows naturally that usage of the building will be restricted to the compliant stage only.

If you need any assistance with organising a staged build or partial occupation certification, contact the construction team at Nexus for more information.

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