Anyone undertaking building work or planning to subdivide land is responsible for obtaining certificates to show the work complies with relevant legislation and other standards. This process of certification ensures development across NSW is safe, is of the highest standard, and meets industry standards and the Building Code of Australia (BCA). If work requires a construction certificate or complying development certificate, a principal certifying authority (PCA) must be appointed before work commences. Certain rules apply if you choose to change your PCA once construction has begun.

Local councils can advise which certificates are required for each development. These certificates are issued by either local councils or accredited certifiers – both are experts on technical standards and regulations, though neither is responsible for supervising builders.

Whoever is undertaking the building or subdivision work (usually the landowner) can decide whether to appoint the local council and/or an accredited certifier as their certifying authority. Once appointed, the certifying authority will inspect and approve – or `certify’ – building and subdivision work.  They do this by making sure:

•   detailed plans and specifications for proposed work comply with relevant building standards and development consent requirements
•   important building elements such as fire safety systems are installed to the required standards
•   the completed building or subdivision work is safe and healthy to occupy or use.

The certifying authority can issue construction certificates, compliance certificates, complying development certificates and strata certificates.

If work requires a construction certificate or complying development certificate, a principal certifying authority (PCA) must be appointed before work commences. The PCA will inspect building works during their construction to allow them to issue occupation certificates and subdivision certificates.

One certifying authority can be appointed to issue a construction certificate or a complying development certificate, and another can be appointed to act as the PCA. The same PCA can be appointed to certify both building work and subdivision work if both are taking place, but this needs to be made clear in the instrument appointing the PCA.

How to replace a principal certifying authority (PCA)

A PCA can be changed by:

•   Applying to the Board for approval to change the PCA or
•   Obtaining the agreement of the current PCA, the proposed replacement PCA and the person who appointed the current PCA (usually the landowner) to change the PCA.

Seeking approval of the Board – An application to replace a PCA form (in Word or pdf) must satisfy the Board that it is appropriate for the PCA to be replaced. The replacement PCA cannot be appointed before the Board gives its approval in writing, and the council and the consent authority have been notified.

Notification of agreement – If the PCA is changed by agreement between the current PCA, the proposed replacement PCA and the person who appointed the current PCA, the replacement PCA must notify the council and the consent authority of the change. Such a notice is not needed if the council and the consent authority have already agreed to the change. The replacement PCA can only be appointed once the notice is given to the council and the consent authority (where required).

Appointing more than one replacement PCA – If you have a development consent that allows you to carry out both building work and subdivision work, a PCA should be appointed for each of these kinds of work. You can appoint the same PCA to do both the building work and the subdivision work. In most council areas, only the council can be the PCA for subdivision work, but an individual accredited certifier, an accredited body corporate or the council can be appointed as PCA for the building work. If the PCA is to be changed for the building and subdivision work, there must be a clear and separate appointment of the replacement PCA(s).

Here at The Quinn Group our experienced team of lawyers and conveyancers can assist you with your construction needs – from reviewing contracts, conveyancing matters to legal assistance in building and construction disputes. For more information submit an online enquiry or call us on 1300 QUINNS (784 667) or on +61 2 9223 9166 to book an appointment. You can also visit our dedicated website Building and Construction Disputes for further information.

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