Building an independent unit

This page has information about the legal requirements for building independent units, also known as granny flats in the Northern Territory (NT). 

To construct an independent unit, or convert an existing building to an independent unit, you will need to engage an NT registered building certifier to get building approval for your project.

Building and planning approvals

You will need building approval for this work. 

Read more under paperwork requirements below.

You can build an independent unit without planning approval if your construction meets the necessary requirements under the Northern Territory Planning Scheme. 

It must meet its zoning requirements in one of the following zones:

  • Single Dwelling residential (SD)
  • Multiple Dwelling residential (MD)
  • Medium Density residential (MR)
  • High Density residential (HR)
  • Caravan Park (CV)
  • Community Living (CL)
  • Agriculture (A)
  • Rural Residential (RR)
  • Rural Living (RL)
  • Rural (R)
  • Water Management (WM)
  • Future Development (FD)
  • Township (T)
  • Specific Use (SU) - only where indicated in the specific schedule.

Read about the Development One Stop Shop to find out more about planning requirements.

Land overlying the Berry Springs Dolostone Aquifer 

This land is currently subject to an Interim Development Control Order (IDCO).

Your plans for using, developing or subdividing land in Berry Springs or a surrounding locality may be affected. 

Read IDCO number 22 on the interim development control order page or contact Development Assessment Services for information.

Building and development requirements

Independent units must comply with all of the following clauses of the NT Planning Scheme:

  • parking requirements - clause 6.5.1
  • land subject to flooding and storm surge - clause 6.14
  • residential density and height limitations - clause 7.1
  • building setbacks of residential buildings - clause 7.3
  • private open space - clause 7.5
  • independent unit - clause 7.10.4.

Maximum floor area

Independent units must not exceed the set maximum floor area in the following zones:

  • 50 square metres in SD, MD, HR, CV, CL, T, WM, FD and RR zones
  • 80 square metres in RL, R, H and A zones.

Power and water

Independent units must be serviced by both of the following:

  • a single bore or a single connection to a reticulated water supply
  • a single connection to a reticulated power supply.

Sewage

Independent units must be serviced by either of the following:

  • a single connection to reticulated sewerage
  • or a common effluent disposal system as detailed in clause 7.10.4(4)(c) of the NT Planning Scheme in areas without reticulated sewerage.

Subdividing a property with an independent unit

The NT Planning Scheme prohibits subdivision that creates a separate title for an independent unit for the purpose of a unit title scheme. 

Subdivision to create a freehold title is only possible if the proposal meets all relevant requirements of the NT Planning Scheme for subdivision.

Using demountable structures

In most cases, a demountable structure such as a sea container, also known as a donga, can be used as an independent unit if it complies with all relevant provisions of the NT Planning Scheme, -particularly clause 6.8 - demountable structures, and a building permit and occupancy permit from a building certifier are obtained.

Paperwork requirements

You may need a development permit, and you must have a building permit and occupation certification.

Development permit

A development permit for an independent unit is required if you want to vary any requirements of the NT Planning Scheme. 

For assistance preparing your application, make an appointment with a planner by going to the Development One Stop Shop.

Building permit

You will need building approval from an NT registered building certifier to construct an independent unit, or to convert an existing building to an independent unit.

Before occupying the independent unit, you must get occupancy certification, or a builder’s declaration if it is in a Tier 2 building control area

Read about building and renovating: permits and processes.

Contacts

You can contact the following for more information or advice on building your independent unit. 

Development requirements 

Contact Development Assessment Services at the Department of Lands, Planning and the Environment, see contact details on contact planning and development services.

Building requirements 

You can get a list of private registered building certifiers go to the Building Practitioners Board website.

For more information contact Building Advisory Services.

Power, sewerage and water 

Go to the Power and Water Corporation website, email customerservice@powerwater.com.au, or call 1800 245 092. 

Onsite wastewater management 

You can get a list of private registered certifying plumbers on the Building Practitioners Board website.

For more information contact Environmental Health at the Department of Health by email at envirohealth@nt.gov.au or call (08) 8922 7377.

Last updated: 27 June 2017