Building in Your Backyard

Building in Your Backyard

Are you feeling a little cramped at home and looking to utilise some space from your backyard? Before deciding whether to build a unit, granny flat or studio on your land it is important to understand what each of these are and what can best meet your needs.


If your second building is categorised as a dwelling, then this is considered building a unit on your property.

For a building to be classified as a dwelling it must be self contained accommodation and have these facilities:

  • A kitchen sink;
  • Food preparation area;
  • Shower or bath, and;
  • Toilet and a basin.

A planning permit is always needed to build a second dwelling on your land. A second dwelling will require car parking and a backyard area to be provided. If you are looking for some more space, but don’t want the complexity of a second dwelling then you might want to consider if a studio would be better for you.


If the building doesn’t have all of the facilities of a dwelling, it is considered a studio or just an outbuilding. While technically taking out one of the four items listed above would mean that the building wasn’t a dwelling, generally Councils’ are more stringent that that and will only allow you to have either a bathroom or a kitchen in order for them to be satisfied it won’t be turned into a dwelling.

If you are looking for some work/hobby space or for a teenager retreat, a studio might be just what you need. As an added benefit you might not need a planning permit, saving you time and money. As planning controls vary around Melbourne, you will need to speak with a town planner to confirm whether a planning permit is required for your project.

Granny Flats

A granny flat is another type of backyard building that is sometimes considered by property owners. A granny flat is a type of dwelling (as it contains all of the facilities mentioned above). In Victoria a granny flat is a temporary removable dwelling used for housing someone (often an aging/ill parent) who is dependent on the occupants of the main house. In most residential areas a planning permit is not required for a granny flat (otherwise called a dependent persons unit), but it is expected that it will be removed once the dependent person no longer needs it. In some zones, especially rural or environmental zones, a planning permit will be required for a granny flat.


Lastly, sometimes people have come to me with existing buildings on their land that have been added to over time and want to know what to do. It may be that something was originally approved as a studio with a bathroom, and then a kitchen was added later. Or that a granny flat was put up temporarily and then never removed. While these buildings may contain all the facilities listed above for a dwelling, if there is no approval for them as a dwelling then they don’t have that official status. They generally don’t have things like car parking or enough backyard area. Occasionally it may be possible to add these necessary facilities in order to gain approval for a second dwelling on the land, however in many cases it just isn’t possible to make the necessary adjustments to satisfy Council for a second dwelling permit.

With this information you can decide what type of building will best fit your needs. If a studio or dependent persons unit will fit your requirements you may be able to bypass the need for a planning permit, saving time and money.

Regardless of whether your building needs a planning permit it will likely need a building permit, so check with a registered building surveyor about that.

If you are keen to have a second dwelling or convert an existing building into a dwelling we can provide you with preliminary advice and guidance on the project. Contact us today.