What is a Building Covenant and Why Should You Care?

Jun 18, 2019

Building Covenants

When you’re embarking on a new home build, the sheer volume of regulations can feel a little overwhelming.

Obtaining Development Application (DA) approval already requires your building designer to comply with an extensive set of rules concerning the size of your home compared to the land size, the height of your house, proximity to neighbours’ homes, placement of windows, set back from the street, and many more!

But when you’re building in a new area, there’s often a whole other set of “rules” you need to observe, called Building Covenants.

A Building Covenant is a guide, or restriction, on the way you are able to build your property and they are usually set by the land developer. They are also known as “Building and Design Guidelines”.

In the ACT and surrounding regions, you’ll find Building Covenants in place for new suburbs such as Googong, Denman Prospect, Coombs and Throsby. These Building Covenants can be quite extensive, and are prescribed to ensure a certain look and feel is achieved when the suburb is complete.

Any experienced architect or building designer will be able to interpret the requirements easily, and can guide you on how to incorporate them when designing your new home.

Here are some of the Building Covenants that you may come across when building a new house in one of these new suburbs:

  • Building colours and materials
  • Inclusion of solar and rain water tanks for ecological sustainability
  • Minimum Energy Efficiency Rating (EER)
  • Placement and style of the garage
  • Types of trees or shrubs that can be planted in the front yard
  • Height and placement of boundary fencing
  • Design of front verandah or porch
  • Roof shape and materials
  • Placement of letterboxes
  • Driveway colours or style
  • Retaining walls
  • Placement of air conditioning units, antennas, pools, sheds, and so on


Often, in order to encourage consistency of design in terms of front yard landscaping, the development agency may also offer a rebate (i.e.: a $5000 allowance) to home owners who complete their landscaping in accordance with specific landscaping guidelines. Or, they may require payment of a bond which is then paid back after landscaping is complete, and guidelines have been followed. Occasionally, some owners may choose not to follow the guidelines and instead opt to forfeit the rebate/bond.

Building Covenants differ from legislation and planning laws in that they are generally only enforceable when a house is first built. If a new home does not comply with the Building Covenants, but still complies with planning and building regulations, then it should still be possible to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy. However, depending on the suburb, the act of choosing to live in the area and purchasing the land means that you are agreeing to build according to the developer’s rules.

The types of covenants in your suburb will depend on the land developer, and their design intentions for the suburb. Keep in mind that you are generally required to submit your building design to the developer for sign off, even before it goes to Council for official DA approval.

Building Covenants are not there to make your life difficult, or to deter you from building the home of your dreams. They are simply there to ensure that all homes benefit from the overall design of the suburb, and that a sustainable outcome is achieved by asking each property owner to do their part.

To obtain a copy of the Building Covenants relevant for your new suburb, speak to your land developer (the people you bought the block of land from). Ideally, you should make yourself aware of Building Covenants before you commit to purchasing a block.

For more information about building a home that unites your vision with the guidelines stated in your new suburb’s Building and Design Guidelines, please call Danny or Robert Rosin on 6247 4799 or email info@rosinbros.com.au.

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