Building certification moratorium


The building certification moratorium ended on 30 June 2016.

If you own a building in the Northern Territory built before 28 April 2009, a moratorium was in place until 30 June 2016 to allow you to comply with building certification requirements.

During the moratorium, buildings assessed to be a hazard to people continued to be subject to enforcement action.

Amendments to the NT Building Act and Regulations that commenced on 1 May 2016 created two new levels of occupancy certification, in addition to the existing occupancy permit.

The three different levels of occupancy certification allow for differing levels of compliance with the Building Act and Regulations and provide building owners more options to comply with building certification requirements.

Go to the Northern Territory Government website to read about occupancy certification.


For more information about the moratorium, contact the department.

Building Advisory Services
Department of Lands, Planning and the Environment
GPO Box 1680
Darwin NT 0801

Phone: (08) 8999 8985

Moratorium Tier 2 travel subsidy for building certifiers

The travel subsidy for building certifiers ceased with the end of the building certification moratorium on 30 June 2016.

During the moratorium the subsidy was available to building certifiers to reduce the cost of travel to Tier 2 building control areas, excluding Brewer Estate, for inspection purposes.

The subsidy was available to building certifiers for travel in connection with certifying existing and new buildings. 

It was based on $2 per kilometre plus accommodation.

It was valid for travel carried out between 1 July 2009 and 30 June 2016. 

Claims for travel subsidy are no longer being accepted.

For more information about the background to the travel subsidy and how to it was applied download the following documents: 

Go to the Northern Territory Government website for:

2016: Building Amendment (Occupancy Certification) Bill

In March 2016, the Legislative Assembly passed legislation to amend the Building Act. The amended legislation introduced two new alternative pathways to certification.

The reforms commenced on 1 May 2016.  

The three different tiers of occupancy certification will allow for differing levels of compliance with the Building Act and Regulations, which will enhance transparency and confidence in the buildings certification process and encourage a greater level of compliance.

Occupancy certification has the following three levels:

Occupancy permit

This continues to be the highest category of occupancy certification and no changes to this level were made. An occupancy permit continues to be issued by a building certifier where the construction and certification processes have been complied with in full.

Certificate of substantial compliance

This is a new category of occupancy certification and may be issued where building works are carried out under a valid building permit and meet the relevant technical standards at the time, but may have insubstantial variations to the approved plans, or missing documentation and inspections.

Certificate of existence

This is a new category of occupancy certification and may be issued for building works that were completed before commencement of the Bill, when any of the following circumstances apply:

  • the works were unapproved
  • a building permit was in force for the works but they were completed with less than substantial compliance with the building permit or other legislative requirements
  • or a building permit was in force but the works did not meet the relevant technical standards.

2015: Post-moratorium reforms

The Department of Lands, Planning and the Environment consulted and sought feedback on tranche 1 of the reforms to address the end of the building certification moratorium.

Legislation was drafted to provide for a three-tiered occupancy certification system to allow new pathways for buildings to become lawfully occupied.

Feedback was sought from the building industry and the community to help shape the reforms and ensure they meet the needs and expectations of building owners and the community.

Read the following consultation documents that were used from September to October 2015:

2014: Discussion paper and consultation

In February 2014 a discussion paper was released to frame the policies that could address issues in the certification of building works.

Read the Post moratorium: reform of building regulation in the NT discussion paper (516.2 kb).

Following consultation, the Northern Territory Government determined to take a staged approach to building certification reform consisting broadly of:

  • tranche 1 - creation of a three-tiered occupancy certification system
  • tranche 2 - mechanisms to increase capacity within the building certification system
  • tranche 3 - building a compliant culture.

2009: Background to the moratorium

In April 2009, a moratorium on building enforcement was declared.

The moratorium suspended any enforcement of the Building Act on existing building works with incomplete or no certification, subject to there not being serious health or safety issues.

The purpose of the moratorium was to encourage existing building owners to achieve compliance.

At the time of the moratorium’s announcement, about 36,000 building permits did not have a corresponding occupancy permit. An examination of sample files showed that there could be half of this number that:

  • had building permits that did not proceed to building works
  • did proceed to building works that have since been demolished or overtaken by renovation works that have a new permit
  • or did proceed to building works and the works were generally in order but the documentation was never completed.

The remaining half of the outstanding building permits were the more challenging, relating to buildings that required technical investigation and/or rectification work. In addition, there are anecdotally many unauthorised building works - never subject to a building permit even though one was required under the Building Act.

Given the level of incomplete certification there was a need to review the regulation regime to ensure it was appropriate and relevant for the circumstances in the Northern Territory.

There also needed to be a viable certification path for owners of existing buildings that are assessed as reasonably safe for occupation, whilst retaining the integrity of the building regulation regime through appropriate deterrence to prevent further non-compliances.

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