Building an independent unit

You must meet certain requirements to build an independent unit in the Northern Territory (NT).

An independent unit or granny flat is defined as a ‘dwelling – independent’ under the NT Planning Scheme 2020.

Building approval

You will need building approval to build or convert an existing building to an independent unit.

To get building approval, you must engage an NT registered building certifier.

Before occupying the dwelling, you must get occupancy certification, or a builder’s declaration, if it is in a tier 2 building control area.

If you need planning approval, you must get it before occupancy certification will be granted.

Read about building and renovating: permits and processes.

For more information, contact Building Advisory Services.

Planning approval

In most cases, you can build an independent unit without planning approval if it meets all the requirements under the NT Planning Scheme 2020.

These include:

  • any applicable overlays
  • maximum floor area of the dwelling
  • building height limits
  • minimum setbacks from neighbouring properties
  • parking requirements
  • landscaping requirements
  • requirements for power, water and sewerage or on-site wastewater management.

To find the requirements, check the:

The assessment table will also tell you your assessment category.

When you need a development permit

You don’t need a development permit if:

  • the use is permitted
  • no overlays apply and
  • you meet all the relevant requirements of the NT Planning Scheme.

You must apply for a development permit if it is:

  • merit or impact assessable in the zone or
  • permitted but you:
    • are affected by an overlay or
    • want to vary any requirements of the NT Planning Scheme.

Read more about how to apply for a development permit.

Read more about factors that can change your need for planning approval.

For more information about planning requirements, contact Development Assessment Services.

Using a demountable structure

You can use a demountable structure, such as a sea container (donga), as an independent unit.

However, it must meet all relevant building and planning requirements.

For further advice, speak to a building certifier.

If you meet the requirements, you don't need to meet clause 5.8.7 of the NT Planning Scheme 2020.

Subdividing property with an independent unit

You can't create a separate title for an independent unit through a unit title scheme subdivision.

You can only subdivide the land to create a separate freehold title if your proposal:

  • meets all subdivision requirements of the planning scheme
    • including minimum lot size.

Read more about subdivision.


For power, sewerage and water, contact Power and Water Corporation by calling 1800 245 092 or emailing

For onsite wastewater management, you can get a list of private registered certifying plumbers on the Building Practitioners Board website.

For more information about wastewater management, contact Environmental Health by calling 08 8922 7377 or emailing

Last updated: 09 September 2020

Give feedback about this page.

Share this page:

URL copied!