Certificate of existence

A certificate of existence shows the building work meets a minimum level of safety, health and amenity and is suitable to be occupied.

Building work granted with a certificate of existence must meet current wind and fire codes.

Except for wind and fire codes, a certificate of existence does not show that the building work meets the technical standards and codes that apply at the time it is issued.

Even though a building with a certificate of existence must meet current wind codes, no building is cyclone proof and in the event of a cyclone the occupier of the property should make the same considerations and decisions as occupiers of properties with other levels of occupancy certification. 

Read more about cyclones.

When a certificate of existence can't be granted

A certificate of existence cannot be granted for:

  • buildings classified by the National Construction Code as ‘Importance Levels 3 and 4’, for example, hospitals, schools, emergency shelters, buildings that accommodate a large number of people, and other high risk buildings and essential facilities or
  • building works associated with fire safety systems.

These types of buildings and building works must comply with the requirements for an occupancy permit or a certificate of substantial compliance.

When a certificate of existence can be granted

A certificate of existence may be granted by the Director of Building Control, on the recommendation of a building certifier, only for building works that were completed before 1 May 2016. 

One or more of the following circumstances must apply:

  • the works are unapproved because they were never granted a building permit
  • the works are unapproved because they were completed after the building permit had expired
  • a building permit was in force for the works but they were completed with less than substantial compliance with the building permit or other legislative requirements 
  • a building permit was in force but the constructed works did not meet the relevant technical standards
  • the building was constructed at a time when a building permit or occupancy certification was not required and the owner of the building wants an occupancy certification assessment.

To be eligible for a certificate of existence, the building work must meet a reasonable level of safety, health and amenity and must be suitable to occupy and comply with relevant technical standards.

All other relevant legislation and requirements must be met, for example, planning permits.

How to apply for a certificate of existence

To apply for a certificate of existence you must engage an NT registered building certifier. Read more about  engaging a registered building certifier.

Ask your building certifier for an application for certificate of existence form and submit the completed form to them.

You will also need to give the building certifier other information and paperwork about the building work. 

Each case will be different and you should speak to your building certifier to check exactly what information they need.

The building certifier will need to visit the site to do at least one inspection of the work and may need other specialists to also inspect the work or provide reports.

In some cases rectification or repair work might be needed to bring the building up to an acceptable minimum level of safety, health or amenity. Your building certifier will tell you what work is needed.

Technical standards applying to buildings assessed for a certificate of existence

Building work assessed for a certificate of existence must meet current wind and fire codes, not the ones in force when the work was constructed.

The building certifier will carry out a risk assessment to decide which other technical standards should be applied to the work, or parts of the work.

The building work must also meet a reasonable level of safety, health and amenity and be suitable for occupation. 

The reasonable level of safety, health and amenity and the technical standards that apply will depend on a number of factors including the following:

  • the class of building or building work and its use
  • whether the work relates to an entire building, a portion of a building or building work that is not a ‘building’ (such as a fence)
  • the location of a building or building work (for example is it within a high wind area)
  • the age of the building or building work
  • the state of repair (the condition) of the building or building work.

How an application for certificate of existence is assessed

Your building certifier will assess the building work and available information about it. 

The Occupancy Certification Guidelines will help the building certifier to decide whether the building work is eligible for assessment for a certificate of existence. 

When your building certifier is satisfied that the work meets a reasonable level of safety, health and amenity and the building is suitable for occupancy, they can make a recommendation to the Director of Building Control for a certificate of existence.

The Director of Building Control will then decide whether to grant or refuse an application for a certificate of existence.

If you are unhappy with the decision of either your building certifier or the Director of Building Control, go to the Building Appeals Board website to find out how you can appeal the decision.

If the building work can't meet a minimum level of safety, health or amenity

Where a building certifier is not able to determine that a building meets a reasonable level of safety, health and amenity, the building certifier will be required to inform the Director of Building Control who will then decide what action to take in relation to the building work.

The building owner will generally be provided with the opportunity to upgrade the building to meet a minimum standard, or to remove the works.

Read more about reports of unsafe or unapproved work.

Further information

You can obtain more detailed information on the certificate of existence in the occupancy certification guidelines (269.0 kb).

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Last updated: 27 June 2017