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  • Profile photo of danthewandererdanthewanderer
    Post count: 4

    Forgive my ignorance, if I were to purchase a highset house (in Brisbane) where the bottom level has been built in, but is 'below legal height', what implications would that have in regards to tenants, future sale of property etc?

    Profile photo of Scott No MatesScott No Mates
    Post count: 3,812

    Under the BCA if a room has a ceiling height of less than 2.4m it is not a habitable room (habitable room – bedroom, loungeroom, family room, study, rumpus) vs (non-habitable room – bathroom, laundry, hallway, kitchen, cellar, garage, storeroom etc). The implications are that if the underfloor area contains 'bedrooms' or a 'lounge' then someone drawing a long bow may say this is only a 2 bedroom house not 4 + study or whatever.

    Profile photo of newbi2newbi2
    Post count: 227

    If you are certain that the lower area is not classified as "habital" as per  Scotts infom then may I suggest it allows a bargining point for you. If it is advertised using those rooms and thus impacts the sale price, can you offer less based on that not being legit?

    Never know unless you try, because if you dont ansk and buy, when you sell someone else is only going to try it on you.


    Profile photo of danthewandererdanthewanderer
    Post count: 4

    Thank guys, that helped clear up a few things.

    Profile photo of mackarmackar
    Post count: 106

    above answers are correct, but I have seen a house a while ago that had been approved with 2.4m ceiling height in hallway, bedroom only but not in 2nd kitchen or main living areas that had been built in downstairs, as the owners had claimed that these rooms with lower ceiling heights had a "bulkhead" in them & they got away with it.

    Profile photo of kearnalkearnal
    Post count: 9

    Legal height includes to the top of any exposed beams. So if you have wooden floor boards upstairs supported by wooden beams underneath and these are covered by plasterboard, rip the plasterboard off and you give yourself another 20-30cms – this may just get you over the legal height requirement.

    But don't take my word for it, do your own due diligence.

    Profile photo of marg4000marg4000
    Post count: 70

    This is quite common in Brisbane and would not be much of a bargaining point.  Rooms without legal head height cannot be legally described as bedrooms, but are often used for that purpose.  A friend had a high house without legal head height on the lower level.  He built in a study, a sewing room and a storage room.

    Profile photo of CCWestCCWest
    Post count: 1

    I've just signed a contract on a highset property similar to that described here. Downstairs is built in and advertised as a rumpus, study etc, so habitable.

    The agent told us (without us asking) that the ceiling was below legal height downstairs, and that most highsets in the area are similar.
    Our solicitor then expressed concern that the council could kick up a stink if we were to a) use the downstairs area "habitably", or in the future, sold the house advertising it as habitable. Possibly even fine us, or force us to rectify the issue.

    Note that we have our building inspection next week and we'll ask that question specifically and get them to verify whether it is or isn't legal height.

    I guess the biggest concerns are:
    – will we be liable for a fine?
    – will we be facing a battle to sell down the track, ie not being able to advertise the downstairs rumpus/study/living/bathroom/kitchen etc?
    – is it possible to fix, and how much is it going to cost?

    Profile photo of grahampearcegrahampearce
    Post count: 1


    I have spoken with Brisbane City Council and Building Certifiers as well as major insurance companies.  Council and Certifiers say it is not approved use and can not be used as bedrooms/rumpus rooms/lounges/study etc.  Insurance companies have all said that if the house is used any non approved purpose they would not pay on any claim relating to the entire house that is if your house were to burn down regardless of where the fire started you would get zilch.  Also if somebody was to die in a fire whilst sleeping downstairs in the extra bedroom you may be criminally liable for their death.

    We have come across this problem as my daughter was looking to purchase a highset in Brisbane and I put this to the realestate agent who said no thats not true you just dont tell the council what you are doing downstairs.  Everybody does it so its normal for people to take the risk.

    I think that the general public are not aware of this risk that they are actually taking and are paying insurance premiums for no insurance cover.  I have asked A Current Affair and Today Tonight to look into doing a story on it and alsoa the real estate agents who are all to well aware of the council regulations but continue to market these houses as a 4th bedroom/rumpus room etc.
    Please any readers contact ACA and TTN and encourage them to run this story.

    Profile photo of qldeddiesqldeddies
    Post count: 3

    All good info.. .. thanks … we are looking at a highset in Briz at the moment, and have been wondering the same things, sharing your concerns about the apparent lack of concern by eager R/E agents on the ‘legal height’ issue. We are looking at a property with an advertised 2nd bathroom downstairs, but not of legal height .. wondering what it really means .. are they allowed to advertise it ? what are the implications ? whats the house really worth if its not a ‘legal’ room ..

    Would love to know, CCWest how your building inspection went, and if anyone knows the best process to get an independent inspection done in Brisbane .. our R/E agent conveniently arranged for ‘a good bloke we use all the time’ to carry out an inspection for us for $350… without our approval. Yes, i`m going to ring him and cancel !!

    I don`t put much credence in ACA or TTN, but for this, i`ll add my support for a story.

    Any more info would be appreciated … sharing experiences makes us all wiser.

    Profile photo of Todd ParkerTodd Parker
    Post count: 1

    I have a two story house in Brisbane, downstairs has been built in but contains no bedrooms, it consists of a kitchen/dining room, laundry, shower, pantry and a large living room. The height is 2.31 m and as such falls below the 2.4 m required for legal height for the living room component, however the legal height for the remainder is only 2.1 metres so well above. I have contacted and Architect to draft the changes and these will be submitted to a certifier who will hoperfully approve the new layout. The living room will however be submitted with an "alternative usage" form and will be called something else, not a living room.

    The comments re removing plaster board are not entirely accurate as measurements are taken from the bottom of joists not the top, load bearing beams are not included so removing plaster you may only gain 20-25mm or so. Finding a certifier to do the work is tricky I called several and all of them said they were not interested in doing the work, one the told me they wanted about $2000 to submit the plans and the alternative usage form, I agreed to the cost and they since phoned back and said sorry we are to busy. The architect I am using has certifiers they use and is confident they will find one.  Hoper this helps, I will let you know how it washes up.

    Profile photo of SingerSinger
    Post count: 75
    Todd Parker wrote:
    I will let you know how it washes up.

    Yes, please do – we have been wondering about this too.   Very useful topic.

    To graham- thanks for the heads-up.

    Profile photo of munmun5munmun5
    Post count: 65

    Hey guys just wondering if you have a room that slopes from approx 3m+ down to 2.3m approx haven't measured it may be 2.4 but will say for arguments sakes its under the 2.4m height. Does it require all areas to be over 2.4m or are there any allowances for slopes roofs. 


    Profile photo of Mark 101Mark 101
    Post count: 1

    It's not just the legal height you need to worry about, these built-in underneath places often neglect to put in any damp proofing.

    The answer is to dig up the floor and have it lowered and a damp proof course put in.

    No idea how much the job would cost or getting approvals for the work.

    No insurance is the big worry.

    Profile photo of LisaLisa
    Post count: 1

    Hi Todd,

    How did you go with the certifier? If it went well, could you please provide me with his/her details?


    Profile photo of king-coking-co
    Post count: 13

    I increased The height in a lower room that was 2.2m to 2.4m by digging the floor, underpinning the footing and dropping the slab. Cost including extra drainage was about $25,000

    Profile photo of BuyersAgentBuyersAgent
    Post count: 289

    I increased The height in a lower room that was 2.2m to 2.4m by digging the floor, underpinning the footing and dropping the slab. Cost including extra drainage was about $25,000

    Depending on the house either dropping the floor or raising the top is the professional way to do it. As described here its not cheap. But if you do it right, get it approved, then you have actually added some real value. Depends on your numbers and your area if it will add up.

    BuyersAgent | Precium
    Email Me | Phone Me

    South Coast NSW Independent Buyers Agent - Wollongong to Batemans Bay and Regional NSW

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