FAQ: Control of development within the City of Willoughby

Update – 5 June 2024

Council to investigate future complaints over development non-compliance

Willoughby City Council has approved changes to the way complaints over development non-compliance are handled in future. Until now, Council has forwarded complaints relating to complying development certificates (CDCs) or development consents (DCs) to the principal certifier overseeing the development, which in many cases is a private certifier. It has then been the principal certifier’s responsibility to investigate the complaint and issue redress if necessary.

Following a resolution by Councillors at May’s Ordinary Meeting, Willoughby City Council will now investigate complaints in the first instance, instead of forwarding the complaint to the certifier.

This change has been made to better serve the needs of our community.

For further information please continue to use the FAQs below.

What are development approvals?

In NSW, development approvals include:

  • Development Consents (DC)
  • Construction Certificates (CC) 
  • Complying Development Certificates (CDC).

Private or Council Certifiers can issue a Construction Certificate after the issue of Development Consent, or a Complying Development Certificate. 

When must a Principal Certifier be appointed for a development?

Prior to commencement of building or construction work.

After a Construction Certificate (CC) or Complying Development Certificate (CDC) is issued, a Principal Certifier (PC) must be appointed before building or construction work can start.

A Principal Certifier (PC) can be your local council, a registered private building surveyor, or a registered body corporate (certification company).

What is the role of a Principal Certifier for a development?

The Principal Certifier (PC) oversees the development’s construction phase and completes mandatory building inspections, known as critical stage inspections, to make sure that building standards are met. The PC is also responsible for processing any complaints about the development that may arise during the construction process. However, you may choose to approach Council with your concerns about the development and Council will investigate those concerns.

Once building work has finished, the PC will complete inspections and may issue an occupation certificate if the building is deemed safe to occupy.

Before appointing a registered certifier:

  • check that the certifier has the right class of registration for the work and read the conditions, if any, on their registration
  • make sure their registration and insurance are current on the building certifiers public register
  • look up the certifier’s name on the disciplinary register to see if any actions have been taken against them 
  • carefully read the contract for certification work.

Acceptance of appointment as Principal Certifier

The acceptance of the appointment of a PC will be issued on the NSW Planning Portal, including any supporting documentation. A sign with the contact details for the PC will also be displayed at the front of the building site.

Mandatory inspections

A Principal Certifier inspects a development at certain stages to ensure the works are consistent with the development consent and the National Construction Code.

Critical stage mandatory inspections for residential construction include:

  • foundation after excavation and before footings are placed
  • steel reinforcement in footings and subsequent floor slabs (excluding high rise)
  • framework (excluding high rise)
  • fire-protecting construction and openings in floors/walls
  • wet area waterproofing of all bathrooms and laundries (only 10% in high rise)
  • stormwater drainage connection
  • swimming pool barrier fencing
  • completed works (final inspection) to verify that the building is suitable for occupation.

Residential development will generally require 4 to 5 inspections.

Who do I contact to lodge a complaint about a development?

Complaints about approved building work

The Principal Certifier (PC) is responsible for investigating and actioning complaints about the development. However, you may choose to approach Council with your concerns about the development and Council will investigate those concerns.

If you do approach the PC and if the Principal Certifier identifies a non-compliance, the Principal Certifier may serve a Written Directions Notice (WDN) on the owner/developer, under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, 1979.

When a WDN is served by a privately appointed Principal Certifier, the Principal Certifier will forward a copy of the WDN to Council for investigation.

Complaints about a Principal Certifier

If a person has concerns and supporting evidence about the unsatisfactory performance of a Principal Certifier, Council requests the material be forwarded onto the NSW Fair Trading. Fair Trading regulates the conduct of certifiers in NSW and can investigate some complaints about registered certifiers work.

  1. Fair Trading will review the complaint and, if appropriate, may send the certifier a copy of the complaint to invite a response.
  2. Fair Trading will decide whether the matter requires investigation and, if so, will seek comment from the certifier before a decision is made.

If a complaint is proven, Fair Trading may take disciplinary action against a certifier.

What is the role of Council if it is not the appointed Principal Certifier?

The Role of Council

If a complaint about a development is lodged with Council, and Council is not the appointed Principal Certifier for the development, Council will refer the matter to the appointed private Principal Certifier for processing.

Council will not enter onto a development site that is under the control of an appointed private Principal Certifier, unless: