This question is specific to Victoria, Australia.

I have an old (1945) 6m by 7m outbuilding (basically, a small barn) on my property, and I would like to run mains electricity and water down to it so I can use it as an art studio. It has bare timber walls and floor, some windows, and that's about it. I like it that way, and I want to keep it that way, just with some lights, a power point or two, and a sink in the corner.

I am concerned that, in the process of installing water and electricity, I will be required to change the building classification from "non-habitable" (10a) to "habitable" (1a). (Class 8 might be an issue down the road if ever sell anything, but right now I'm just a hobbyist). That, presumably, would open the floodgates for all sorts of other "improvements" to bring it in line with the building regulations for a habitable building, which I do not want and certainly don't want to pay for. For example, the structure is fine (according to a building inspector) for a class 10a building, but I'm not sure it would be considered okay for 1a.

From what I can tell, there shouldn't be any question about this... apart from some vague notion that non-habitable spaces are those "that are not occupied frequently or for extended periods". I would hope to use it most days, for a few hours (a hobbyist, but perhaps a "serious" hobbyist). Does simply being in a building mean you need to get it reclassified?

I just spoke to someone from the council who seemed to think that it should be reclassified if I wanted to go ahead with the electricity and plumbing. I disagreed, but I wasn't sure how to convince them that it wasn't a space that could reasonably be said to be "habitable".

How can I go about this so that I don't end up paying for a "habitable" building that I didn't want in the first place. How can I convince the council that it really should remain just as a "barn that has electricity and water that I paint in"? Or will my usage push it over the threshold?

EDIT (in response to @Harper's comment): I have not been able to locate an actual legal document defining "habitable". I found a number of blog posts and forum discussions that talk about it, but nothing definitive. The council person spoke to suggested I call one of their surveyors -- who are more well-versed in those technicalities -- but I wanted to go into that conversation well-armed with a better idea of what I'm talking about so I don't end up saying something stupid. Hence this question.

  • Have you actually located and read the text of your law/ordinance that defines "habitable"? – Harper Sep 8 '17 at 16:11
  • @Harper No I haven't. But see my edit for more info. – aardvark2012 Sep 8 '17 at 22:21
  • @Damon Thanks for that. I'll get onto a consultant and see what they think. – aardvark2012 Sep 11 '17 at 9:48
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    Thoroughly read the codes. You might even pay a outside of the box contractor to consult with on the codes. Then approach the officials tactfully with your findings. You have to make a case via the code by asking questions about those code sections that would allow you to keep things defined how you want. I also have resorted in our jurisdiction to the code commentary which gives intent to the code. DO NOT hope the officials will find a way for you to get what you want; they want maximal "safety", upgrades, job security, oversight, revenue, etc. – Damon Sep 11 '17 at 9:50
  • @aardvark2012 did you get any further with this since September? – Sam_Butler Jan 12 '18 at 18:27

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