With the rental market booming and house prices on the rise, granny flats are becoming a popular option for thousands of Australians. Until recently, Queensland had regulations that second dwellings could only be rented out to family members unless the homeowner received development approval. However, this has changed since, September 2022, and for at least the next three years, homeowners can rent their granny flats to non-family members without needing to jump through all the hoops. As you can imagine, this will open up a lot of possibilities, which begs the question: should you build a granny flat on your property?
Whether it’s to accommodate family members or to bring in some steady income through renting, a granny flat can be a valuable addition to your home. We’re going to be looking at how the changes will affect homeowners, provide a rundown of regulations and give some tips for building a granny flat.
In this article, we’ll be mostly focussing on Brisbane guidelines. Areas like the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast do vary a little. Also, keep in mind some suburbs will have their own specific guidelines.
What is a Granny Flat?
It may seem like a basic question, but let’s quickly talk about what a granny flat is legally defined as. A granny flat is a self-contained, habitable space built as a second dwelling on a property. This means they share the land with a main house or existing dwelling house. Most granny flats can comfortably accommodate two people and include bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and living areas. The most common use for a granny flat is providing accommodation for family members, though they’re becoming a popular renting option in Queensland, especially since the council has relaxed its guidelines regarding this (see below).
What are the granny flat regulations in QLD?
When building granny flats, there are some basics regulations you’ll need to meet, unless you receive council approval to do otherwise:
- A granny flat in QLD can have a maximum house area of 80m2 unless you’ve gotten approval to build something larger.
- If you planning to build a granny flat, you may need building approval or planning approval from your local council. Different rules apply in various areas, and it’s impossible for us to cover them all here, so we recommend getting in touch with your local council for more information.
- If you’re renting, you’ll need to supply one car parking space for your tenant, in addition to parking for the main house.
- A secondary dwelling must be built on a property with a primary dwelling. The granny flat cannot double as the main house on the property.
- You can only build one secondary dwelling on a property. In other words, barring approval from the council, you won’t be able to build two granny flats on your property.
- Like any building, your granny flat will need to comply with smoke alarm requirements and all health and safety regulations.
Like any building, your granny flat will need to comply with the National Building Code and the Building Act of 1975.
Why has the council relaxed its guidelines around granny flats?
In the past, homeowners wanting to rent out their granny flat to non-family members had to apply for Dual Occupancy or development approval. The changes to the guidelines have removed this necessity, making it easier to use your granny flat as a rental space.
The main reason for the relaxation of the guidelines is to provide more affordable housing options to Queenslanders. These relaxed guidelines also allow homeowners to earn some extra money from their granny flats to help with the cost of living.
A few factors have probably helped these changes be pushed forward including the rising demand for rental properties, the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and recent flooding in Queensland. Concerns regarding homelessness, young people struggling to find accommodation and an aging population have also played a role in the government’s decision.
How will this affect you?
So what do the above changes mean for you? For starters, the more streamlined development assessment process opens up a lot of avenues for people who have a granny flat or are planning to build one. There’s currently a high demand in the rental market and this will help cater to that. The relaxation of the guidelines has helped make granny flats an even more solid and flexible investment.
It needs to be noted these changes are only set in stone for the next three years, and the council will reassess these changes at the end of this period.
Do you need council approval to build a granny flat on your property in QLD?
If you have a small lot, you’ll need to meet the conditions laid out by Brisbane City Council in the Dwelling House (small lot) code. For a block larger than 450sqm, you’ll need to refer to the Dwelling House Code.
Providing your proposed project meets the above guidelines, your project won’t need building approval.
There are a few other factors you’ll need to take into account including:
- Your residential zone
- Is your land subject to a neighbourhood plan?
- Are there any building covenants that could interfere with your plans?
We recommend always speaking to a consultant town planner, qualified building certifier, building surveyor or someone from your local council to double-check you’re good to go ahead with your granny flat. The time it’ll take to do this will be a lot less painful than being caught in the wrong later on.
What are the granny flat or secondary dwelling approval requirements
Your granny flat won’t require council approval providing the proposed building work complies with the appropriate guidelines. Some of the key details include:
- The maximum house area is 80m2. Some areas and zones allow up to 90m2.
- Must have a separate entryway from the main house and a separate parking spot.
- Must be within 20m of the main house.
- Two-storey granny flats can be no higher than 9.5m
- The maximum pitch of the roof is 30m
For more in-depth information, click here to read the Brisbane City Council Plan 2014
Maximum site cover allowed
Below is the maximum site cover allowed by the Brisbane City Council:
50% for lots of 400sqm or more
60% for lots 300-400sqm
70% for lots 200-300sqm
80% for lots less than 200sqm or less
When will you need to seek development approval?
No planning approval will be required for work that meets the standards laid out in the development code. You will need to seek development approval if:
- the secondary dwelling and exceeds 80 square metres in the house area
- your secondary dwelling will be further than 20 metres away from your main house
- in any way, your proposed building work does not comply with the acceptable outcomes outlined in the relevant guidelines.
Not sure where your project falls when it comes to needing building approval? Get in touch with Buildi and we’ll help you get answers!
Parking requirements to consider
When building a granny flat, it’s a requirement to provide one car parking space for your tenant and one for the main dwelling.
Finding a reputable builder for your granny flat construction
With any building project, we recommend finding a builder who specialises in your specific building type or has experience in similar projects to yours. There are some key reasons why it pays to research your builders including:
- Not every builder will take on granny flat projects
- Some builders are more reputable than others
- Hiring someone who specialises in granny flats means
- Talk to a building consultant like Buildi. We know which builders have the goods and which are not all they’re cracked up to be. Our goal is to find the perfect builder for your project.
Our tips for building a granny flat on your property
- First thing first: make sure you’re allowed to build a granny flat on your property. It would be crushing to get swept up in the idea only to discover it is a no-go.
- In keeping with the above theme, make sure you understand all the rules and regulations for your local area before building.
- Consider who you’re building the granny flat for and why you want to build it. After all, if you’re building from scratch, why not tailor the design to suit your needs? For example, if you’re catering to your mother, create a design she’ll be comfortable in.
- If you’re planning to rent to anyone, research market trends and styles that will appeal to a broad range of people. Keeping your layout simple and universal means your tenants can bring their own character and style to the space.
- Before advertising your granny flat, make sure you’ve sorted out all the details of the agreement. Would you like your tenant to pay for the water? If so, you’ll need to install a metre. It’s easier to have these things sorted before you have a tenant rather than after they’ve moved in.
How much does it cost to build a granny flat in QLD?
This is one of those “how long is a piece of string” type questions with the frustrating answer: it depends. On average, granny flats in Queensland cost somewhere between $50,000 to $200,000. The reason for such a huge variance in cost comes down to the following factors:
- Choice of builder
- Size of Granny flat
- Any landscaping, soil tests, excavation and fencing
- If renting to someone who isn’t family, you may need to install a water metre, electrical metre and gas metre
- Council fees will vary depending on your area and what the approval process is like.
- Installing a driveway, or mailbox (optional), and generally making your granny flat accessible may cost more than you think.
Get free information from an experienced building broker
Considering building a granny flat with your new home? Want an impartial advisor to help guide you throughout your building journey? Buildi is here to help. We’re all about giving power back to the consumer, by being a client advocate during building meetings and throughout the process of bringing your dream home to life. Get in touch today to find out how we can assist you on your building journey.