Can I Legally Rent Out My Granny Flat?

You might know a little about the history of granny flats in Australia. They’re actually a slightly modified colonial relic. In Good Old England, mothers-in-law were stowed away in the attic. Well, not quite, but almost. In aristocratic homes, wives came with a dowry, so if a man married a woman who was well off, her father would give her a large amount of wealth.

Ideally, the cash and property was a wedding gift, so that she would be well looked after in her new home. It would ensure she lived the life she was accustomed to. Aristocratic titles were hereditary, so sometimes, a husband had a fancy title but no money. His wife’s dowry helped with that, and in exchange, she would get her husband’s title and social clout.

If the husband died before the wife, the title (and property) would go to the closest male relative. But rather than leaving the widow out in the cold, she would get a cosy self-contained house somewhere on the grounds. It kept her comfortable and cared for while letting the new ‘tenant’ live in the main house with his family.

This small cabin was called a Dowager Flat. As British administrative settlers moved to Australia, they brought their traditions with them. Since there weren’t titles and vast properties, elderly widows were housed in rooms above the garage. These eventually evolved into granny flats, though today’s granny flats are mostly detached units.

Nowadays, best granny flats are used by elderly parents or teenage children. In some regions of Australia, they can be used as home offices. But most places dispute renting out your granny flat. However, local regulations vary, so just to be sure, you’d have to check in with your regional council and submit your plans to a private certifier (PCA) for approval.


General Regulations


Before constructing a granny flat, you need local government approval. Your land has to be at least 450 m2, and the flat itself shouldn’t be bigger than 60m2 including perimeter walls. Your lot can only have one main house and one granny flat, so you can’t legally build multiple units. Once you’ve constructed the flat, you’re not allowed to subdivide your lot.

Building a granny flat places restrictions on upgrades for the main house. After putting one up, you can’t modify the exterior of the main house any further. You’re only permitted to add an entrance or doorway to accommodate the flat. As for subdivision, you can’t construct a granny flat on subdivided, environmentally sensitive, community owned, or heritage land.

Your granny flat has to be approved under Complying Development (CDC) and Building Code of Australia (BCA). Approval usually takes 20 days. Neighbours will be notified 14 days before approval and will get a second notification seven days before construction begins. Of course, you can give them a heads up on your own if you’re friendly enough.

You can’t build a granny flat on the same lot as an apartment block. A granny flat is an additional housing unit, so you can’t put it up as a ‘main house’ on vacant land. Also, while you don’t need local council permission to build, it’s helpful to check if there are specific construction guidelines for your neighbourhood.

Sydney and New South Wales


Granny flats in this region can only be built in residential zones. Commercial granny flats aren’t allowed, which means you can’t rent them out. The flat must be 12 metres wide, so if you don’t have enough room for that, your flat would have to be attached to the main house.

Regarding position and spacing, the flat must be 3 metres from the back boundary of your lot, and 0.9 metres away from the side boundaries. If you have trees taller than 4 metres, then your flat must be 3 metres away from the trees.

Melbourne and Victoria


DPUs (Dependent Person Units) don’t need a construction planning permit. The definition of a DPU is a family member that relies on the main homeowner for sustenance. They have to be related to the homeowner so that it can be a parent, child, or sibling. The DPU has its kitchen and bathroom, but it shares the main home’s sewerage system and water source.

You can’t rent out your granny flat. Before you begin construction, you have to say who will live in it, mentioning their name. And if they leave your residence, you have to tear the flat down. To comply with these rules, the necessary information has to be submitted in writing.


Brisbane and Queensland


Granny flats in Queensland can be a bit bigger than flats in other regions. They can have floor space of up to 80m2. You can use your flat as a home office, but if you want to rent it out, you have to check with the local council. Some areas allow renting, but most do not.

Adelaide and South Australia


Developing your land enhances your property value, but you need permission from the relevant local authority. In this region, granny flats are not considered commercial. You can only build one for an immediate relative, preferably one related by blood.

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