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Licences for Residential Building Work


Residential building work is largely governed by the Home Building Act 1989 (NSW) (referred to in this article as the Act).  The Act provides that builders who undertake residential building work must have a valid licence.  Not having a valid licence to carry out residential building work exposes builders to serious penalties.  These licences are issued and managed by Fair Trading New South Wales and are issued subject to the contractor’s satisfaction of various requirements as discussed in this article.

What is Residential Building Work?

In a legal context, residential building work includes “work involved in the construction of a dwelling, or the making of alterations or additions to a dwelling, or the repairing, renovation, decoration or protective treatment of a dwelling”.  The Act also encompasses various other specific kinds of work such as roof plumbing and other specialist work.  The BSM building and construction lawyers can advise you of the exact details of the Act.  Importantly, licences only need to be acquired for residential building work which costs over $5,000.

Types of Licences

  1. Contractor Licences.  This authorises an individual, company or partnership to contract to complete work and advertise to do the relevant work. These licences limit the type of work and this is outlined on the licence.
  2. Qualified Supervisor Certificates.  This authorises the holder to both supervise and carry out work described on the certificate.  These certificates differ from a contractor licence because they don’t allow the holder to contract for work.  Only individuals can be issued with qualified supervisor certificates.
  3. Endorsed Contractor Licence.  Individuals who have applied for contractor licences and also satisfy the requirements necessary to be a qualified supervisor, can obtain an endorsed contractor licence.  These enable the holder to provide proof that they hold the equivalent to a qualified supervisor certificate.

The exhaustive legislative requirements and description of licences issued in relation to residential building work is in Part 3 of the Home Building Act 1989 (NSW).  The building and construction lawyers at Brander Smith McKnight are happy to interpret and assist you with understanding the legislation.


To obtain a licence, the applicant must satisfy various requirements imposed by Fair Trading NSW.  These broadly fall into the categories of practical experience requirements and qualification requirements.

Practical Experience Requirements

Applicants must satisfy Fair Trading NDW that they have the equivalent of two years full time work experience.  This can be evidenced where an applicant:

  1. Is employed by a building contractor
  2. Is a subcontractor (holding an endorsed contractor licence) and works for a building contractor.
  3. Is working as a nominated supervisor (holding a qualified supervisor certificate) and the contractor licence they are supervising includes a category of full general building.  Where this is the case there must also be another nominated supervisor to cover the category of building.
  4. Is working as a nominated supervisor (holding a qualified supervisor certificate) and the licence you are the supervisor for has been subcontracting to a general building contractor.

Applicants should also be aware that when meeting the practical experience requirement the relevant building contractor must have a valid licence in full general building work.  Applicant’s will also need to have a referee confirms their experience.  This referee by hold an endorsed contractor licence or qualified supervisor certificate in the residential building work which forms the basis of the applicant’s practical experience.  The applicant also needs to have been lawfully paid for the work they have done which satisfies the practical experience requirement.

Qualification Requirements

Fair Trading NSW requires the applicant to meet one of two qualification requirements, put simply the applicant must either:

  1. Have a relevant Certificate IV in building and construction; or
  2. Have a degree in building and construction.

Loss or Suspension of a Building Licence

Builders and contractors should be aware that their licences can be lost or suspended for various reasons.  For example, a licence may be suspended if:

  • The holder engages in unlawful activity
  • If the licence is obtained fraudulently
  • If the holder becomes bankrupt

How can BSM Lawyers Help me?

Our building and construction lawyers have over 40 combined years of experience and have worked extensively at all levels of construction.  In relation to residential buildings we have acted for both builders and home owners throughout Sydney and Wollongong providing clear and efficient advice on your rights and obligations.  We can concisely explain all aspects of residential building licences and how they relate to your personal situation.

Call us to arrange a free 20 minute no obligation consultation that includes case evaluation and cost estimate.

We are conveniently located in Sutherland, Parramatta, Wollongong and Sydney CBD.

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