Revitalising and upgrading existing buildings

In some circumstances, property owners are legally required to upgrade specific aspects of their property prior to, or after the transfer of the property title. The Development Act 1993 and Development Regulations 2008 detail the circumstances in which all or part of an existing building may be required to be upgraded.

Upgrading existing buildings

Discretionary upgrading requirements

In some circumstances, a relevant authority has the discretion to require part or all of an existing building to be upgraded. From 19 Sept 2017, building practitioners can use Minister's Specification SA - Upgrading health and safety in existing buildings (811.9 KB PDF) to assist them to exercise their discretionary powers for the following:

  • Buildings constructed prior to 1 January 2002
    Applications for alterations to existing buildings, where an application is made to alter a building constructed before 1 January 2002, the relevant authority may require that building work be carried out to ensure that the building is safe and conforms to proper structural and health standards.
  • Applications for change of use or classification
    Applications for change of use or reclassification, where an application is made for a change of use or change of building classification, additional work may be required to ensure that the building is appropriate to its present or intended use.
  • Building fire safety committees
    If a council building fire safety committee is not satisfied that the fire safety of an existing building is adequate, they can require the building owner to carry out work to fix that.

Where an application is made for an alteration to a dwelling in a bushfire prone area and the total floor area of the dwelling would increase by at least 50% in size as it existed three years before the date of the application, then the relevant authority may require the entire building to conform with the Building Rules for bushfire protection.

Mandatory upgrading requirements

There are mandatory upgrading requirements for smoke alarms and swimming pools or spa pools.

Upgrading access and facilities for people with a disability

The Commonwealth Disability (Access to Premises-Building) Standard 2010 (Premises Standard) was adopted under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 on 1 May 2011 and contains improved access provisions for both new and existing buildings.

From 1 October 2012, when an existing building is being altered or added to and the new work is such that it requires assessment against the provisions of the National Construction Code, the council or private certifier undertaking the building rules assessment can require that an ‘affected part’ must also be upgraded to make it accessible.

There are some circumstances under which an ‘affected part’ of a building cannot be required to be upgraded including if:

  • it would cause 'unjustifiable hardship' to require the work to be carried out
  • if the part of the building being altered is being undertaken by a lessee (other than where the whole building is being leased by the same person).

Concessions also apply for existing lifts and sanitary facilities in some instances.

Further information about the application of the premises standards to existing buildings, including concessions and unjustifiable hardship, can be found in Advisory Notice 02/17 Access and facilities for people with a disability- upgrading requirements.

Applications for unjustifiable hardship should be made to the Building Committee (a sub-committee of the State Planning Commission).

Related information



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Page last updated 18 August 2020

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