Guide to granny flats for homeowners

Guide to granny flats for homeowners

How many people can live in a granny flat?
Is it easy to build a granny flat? How much do granny flats cost? Here’s what you need to know about granny flats.
For families with dependents who wish to stay close by but yet enjoy their solitude, granny flats can be a valuable addition. Here are some essential details regarding the construction of granny flats in Victoria.

Things you need to know about granny flats

What is a granny flat?

An auxiliary housing unit, sometimes referred to as a granny flat, is a separate residential building on your land from your primary residence. These apartments became known as “granny flats” because they were frequently used to house sick or elderly family members. They can also be referred to as an auxiliary dwelling unit, a dwelling garden unit, or a Dependent Person’s Unit (DPU).

A granny flat differs from the following other second homes on your property:

  • For a structure to qualify as a unit, it must be self-contained and feature a kitchen sink, a food preparation area, a toilet, a basin, and bathing facilities. A secondary home also usually requires a backyard and designated parking space. Planning permission is often needed before building a second home.
  • Studios: Also called outbuildings, studios are standalone buildings on your property that are devoid of all the conveniences of a whole home. Usually used as personal work-from-home offices or hobby rooms (such as art studios), councils frequently permit studios to have a kitchen or bathroom to avoid turning them into homes.

Who can live in a granny flat?

Who can live in a granny flat?
Those who live in granny flats typically include elderly parents, grandparents, teenagers, and family members with special requirements resulting from disabilities. Traditionally, these were reserved for people who were dependent on those in the primary home. However, recent changes indicate that Victoria’s citizens may soon be able to rent out their granny flats. It is advisable to verify the requirements set by your local municipality for the most recent guidelines.

A woman within the household engages in dishwashing and utilizes the kitchen alongside her elderly parent or grandparents.

What are the laws for granny flats in Victoria?

The Planning and Environment Act of 1987, which governs Victoria Planning Provisions, specifies requirements for granny flats. This acts as a framework that directs the creation and management of planning schemes that are under the control of local governments throughout the state.

New government announcements suggest that building a granny flat on your property will soon be simpler. The declaration came in September 2023 that granny flats under 60 square meters would no longer require planning permits.

While council requirements may vary, they typically demand that the granny flat remains mobile and serves solely to accommodate a dependent of an occupant in the primary residence.

Ensure demonstrating to your local government the ease with which your proposed granny flat can be disassembled or relocated by following these steps:

  • Elevation on piers or stumps as opposed to a solid concrete slab
    • Utilizing non-permanent building supplies
    • The frame is put together using screws rather than nails, giving it the appearance of being a permanent construction. – The plumbing and electrical configurations make it easy to disassemble and reassemble at a different location.

Make sure you carefully read your local council’s standards to understand any further restrictions on the size of granny flats, privacy requirements, and other guidelines.

Tradespeople can be seen assembling a prefabricated granny flat by onlookers.

How do I build a granny flat?

In Victoria, the government is simplifying the procedure of building a residential garden unit or a granny flat. The first step is to become aware of the requirements set forth by your local government and consult a construction specialist for advice. Because local governments have distinct laws and approval processes, it is important to know the individual building codes, regulations, permits, and application procedures in your area.

The following stages are also involved in building a granny flat on your property:

Checking your title certificate to make sure there are no restrictions or covenants impeding the development of a granny flat.

- Obtaining a survey report for your property, in which a building surveyor assesses height measurements and land borders to determine the necessary elevation and viability.

- Purchasing building blueprints or a kit by working with a draftsperson, architect, builder, or designer,
  • Purchasing construction blueprints or a kit by working with a builder, architect, designer, or draftsperson; alternatively, after obtaining at least three quotations, choosing an off-the-shelf/customized prefab kit.
    • Before receiving a building certificate, certify your plans with a private or council certifier; keep in mind that private certification is typically quicker and more affordable than council certification.
    • Making final decisions on fixtures and materials, either independently for prefab kit construction or through the builder/kit supplier.
    • Hiring qualified laborers, electricians, plumbers, and builders to construct and connect the granny flat.
    • Arrange a property inspection to ensure the implementation of safety measures, especially if the granny flat is intended for an elderly person.

Observe a guy carefully digging trenches in order to install pipelines in advance of the construction of a granny flat.

How much does a granny flat cost?

The price of granny flats varies; it usually ranges from $100,000 to $150,000, or even more depending on the size and design of the building. When creating your granny flat budget, it’s important to determine whether the following costs are included in the total:

- Engineering and survey reports
- Engineering and architectural designs
- Obtaining permission for building or planning
- Approvals and certificates
- Purchasing construction supplies
- Labor expenses and tradespeople's fees
Purchasing fixtures and fittings.

How can a granny flat be insured?

You should include granny flats in your regular building and contents insurance as they are regarded as enhancements to your property. The building and contents calculators from RACV are useful resources for figuring out the right insurance for your whole property.
A picture shows a woman holding yarn as her wheelchair-dwelling grandmother knits.

If building a granny flat isn’t your style, you should think about the following alternatives:

- Home extension: Choosing to live in an enlarged home or get more space for your elderly relative could be a good option. Although they need strict council approval, house expansions can raise the value of your property considerably.

- Studio: If you want a dedicated work space or hobby area away from the main house and don't plan to live there with someone else, building a separate studio may be the right choice for you.

- Subdivision: Another option is to look into the possibilities of splitting your land into several parts, each with its own title.
  • Relocating to a smaller home, such as an apartment: Senior family members may choose to downsize to a lower-maintenance apartment rather than live on your property or independently in a granny flat.