Your Essential Guide to Construction Licences in Queensland

Master the permit process in Brisbane. Learn the legal requirements for licences and ensure every building is above board.

By John Christian – November 20, 2023
safety first - Victor Legal

If you want to undertake any building work in Queensland – whether renovating your home, or building a multi-storey office block – you’ll need to consider licencing and speak to a professional building and construction lawyer in Brisbane.

The world of construction licences is an intricate web – particularly here in Queensland. And there can be serious financial implications if you proceed without a licence. So, it’s important to understand what licencing requirements apply to you and ensure you meet all those obligations.

In this article:

Your Essential Guide to Construction Licences in Queensland

The rules and regulations around construction licences in Queensland are set out in the Queensland Building and Construction Commission Act 1991 (the QCBB Act). The QBCC Act covers licencing for all ‘building work’ in Queensland which covers:

  • Construction or erection of structures and buildings
  • Renovations, extensions and repairs
  • Installation of essentials like lighting, heating and ventilation
  • Drafting plans or building specifications
  • Site and completed building inspections
  • Tasks and administrative roles related to site work and building design

The QBCC Act doesn’t cover everyone, though it has been recently amended to specifically encompass previously-excluded architects and engineers in the chain of responsibility, so best to review the Act itself.

When is a licence required for construction in Queensland?

The short answer is that you need a licence (issued by QBCC) if you are carrying out or supervising any building work:

  • over the value of $3,300 (including labour)
  • over the value of $1,100 if it involves hydraulic services design
  • with any value if it involves:
    • site classification
    • building design
    • fire protection
    • drainage
    • plumbing
    • gas fitting
    • chemical termite management
    • mechanical services
    • completed residential building inspection

What type of licence do you need?

The type of licence you need depends on the type of building works (the class) you’re doing and your role and responsibilities in doing that work. There are over 80 available licences (including builder licences, plumbing and drainage licences and fire protection licences, for example), which are clearly set out by the QBCC.

You are only permitted to carry out building work that is covered by your specific licence. If the scope of your building work covers more than one ‘class’, then you’ll need more than one licence to complete the project.

Exceptions to licencing requirements

There are situations where you don’t need a QBCC licence when carrying out building work. These include (among others):

  • If you’re an owner working on your own property and the work is valued at less than $11,000.
  • If you’re building as a trust, the trust doesn’t need a licence, but the trustee does.
  • If you’re working as a partnership and one party has the correct license, then the other party doesn’t need one (but all contracts and tenders need to be carried out by the licenced partner).
  • If you’re an asbestos removal worker, a demolition worker, an electrical worker (carrying out only electrical work), an insulation installer or an architect.
  • If you’re a handyman and the work is valued at less than $3,300.

Licencing for subcontractors

There are different licensing requirements for subcontractors. As a subcontractor the type of licenses you’ll need will depend on the type of work being undertaken and the contracting arrangements that are in place.

The consequences of not acquiring the correct licence

There can be serious consequences if you don’t acquire the right licence. The QBCC Act can impose substantial fines and limit your ability to recover payments. And doing unlicensed building work can even lead to time spent in jail.

In one recent case, brought to the magistrates court on July 7, 2023, an unlicensed Brisbane builder was convicted for failing to complete a carport job despite the homeowner paying a substantial sum of money. He was convicted and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.

How to apply for a licence

Applying for a QBCC licence is a fairly simple process.

  • First you will need to choose the right licence class for your building work.
  • Second you will need to ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria. You may need to demonstrate that you have the right skills, qualifications and experience to undertake the work covered by the licence you are applying. You also will need to demonstrate that you’re a ‘fit and proper’ person. In some cases the QBCC will require referees to confirm your competency.
  • Third you will need to pay the appropriate licence fee. These fees are subject to change on 1 July each year.

What if your licence is refused?

If a licence is refused it is often on the basis that the QBCC believes the applicant is not a ‘fit and proper person’. This could be based on the fact that they have a criminal history, for example. In this case they may send the applicant a letter proposing to refuse the licence application unless they can prove they are fit and proper despite the criminal history.

If you receive a refusal letter from the QBCC, get in touch with us at Victor Legal. You should always obtain legal advice when you receive a letter asking you to explain your criminal history, or requiring you to prove you are a fit and proper person.

Why Victor Legal

At Victor Legal we can help you prepare for all parts of your construction project, including obtaining the appropriate licences or preparing a submission mitigating any potential reasons for refusal. As expert construction lawyers we understand all aspects of construction law and can ensure that your project is a success from the start.

Article by John Christian, Principal Lawyer, Founder and Director of Victor Legal

John has extensive experience in complex civil and commercial dispute resolution and litigation matters, specialising in:

Building and construction disputes
Complex litigation
Contract drafting and review
Dispute Resolution
Commercial Law
Corporate insolvency
Securities and caveats
Debt collection
Contract disputes
Commercial and risk mitigation advice

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