These are done both in New South Wales and ACT. In ACT it is mandatory for every house sold to have such a report.
These reports are done by the building inspector either visiting the local council or shire in New South Wales, or by contacting the Access Canberra (which used to be the ACT Planning Authority – ACTPLA) on the set up system they have with all their inspectors. There is the direct link to Access Canberra if you want to get the plans yourself. These plans and certificates are also called the Conveyancing File and are on that page so linked.
Fees are paid to the council, or Access Canberra. The plans generally arrive after a time by email. But some NSW shires have different methods. The inspector then reads the plans and is able to see what has been approved to be there on the property and what was approved to be changed.
The inspector then looks at the site and takes his photos and measures what has changed. He then writes his summary report.
If there are changes he looks at the changes and reviews if they needed to be approved. For example, if a pergola was erected, it likely does not need approval. But if it is roofed and has a combined roofed area greater than 25 square meters, or is above 3 meters above natural ground level, then it should have been submitted and approved.
It is not the weight of the roof that is important. It is the uplift of the roof during a strong wind that is important. A flying roof can kill, and has.
Is the structure sufficient to withstand that lift? Were the footings properly engineered and poured to make sure the roof did not take the pergola up into the sky and hurt someone? If this structure is there beyond what is allowed, then it is an unapproved structure.
The same goes for stairs and handrails and decking. Some need approval and some do not. It is the inspector’s job to write down what is unapproved as a structure. It can be a litigious world, so he needs to be aware.
Unapproved structures can be big, and I have even found an entire floor added above a house that was never approved. The house was then sold to a builder who was going to get plans drawn up and get it approved. The point here is not to enforce people to withdraw their structures, but to make sure new owners are aware that such may not have been approved. Thus, in that case the new owners can wear the responsibility.
I have also seen garages turned into living quarters, again unapproved, as the garages were too close to the fence in the setback, and the ceilings were below the minimum for habitable spaces, and so on. I have also seen pools approved one year, but not approved today. These all get reported if unapproved.
The purpose of all this is relevant. It leads to a bettering of building standards and a higher awareness of the need to be lawful.
See here for a sample of the Compliance Report:
Written by Nick Broadhurst, our inspector. For more information on Nick: SEE HERE