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  • Writer's pictureSwarup Dutta

How do I subdivide my land in Victoria?

Updated: Jan 7

Can I subdivide my backyard. What are the steps to get council approval for a dual occupancy subdivision in Victoria.
Sell your Backyard subdivision

Property subdivision for two or more lots.

Subdivide and Sell your backyard.

There is a growing trend in older parents helping their children get into the property market while keeping the family "together".

It is a win win situation for both parties.

Our client owned a standard sized block of land with their family home in Chadstone. The land had a small backyard and pool they no longer used. The kids had moved out.

The Melbourne property market was very buoyant. The client's daughter offered to buy the backyard from her parents to build her first home in a location she was familiar with.

AuArchitecture assisted them in the dual occupancy subdivision process.

Swarup, our Founder, managed 250+property subdivision, dual occupancy & unit development planning permits in Victoria.

He provides a Free! high level site assessment on the development potential of your land.

AuArchitecture is a Town Planning and Architecture practice offering our services to land owners in Greater Melbourne and Regional Victoria. Swarup has secured permits across the State.

Build two or more houses on your block.

The steps we undertook is quite typical of subdividing your land ( or backyard) be it a two or more lot subdivision. In this instance, the existing house is being retained for the parents.

The same process would apply if the existing house was to be demolished (or vacant) to make way for more new townhouses / units.

The first step was to review the property title.

In this instance it was a typical title with no covenants or Section 173 Agreements.

( Always check for these instruments as some Covenants could be very restrictive- like not allowing more than one house to occupy the land. This is called a Single dwelling covenant. Removing the Covenant is a process with no real guarantees for its removal).

Next inspect the land ( virtually is fine) and check if it is a simple, regular shaped flat block or is it irregular in shape with a small frontage.

Verify if the land is sloping as a steep block is more complex to design and build on.

As the client was retaining the house, it is important to put in a 3 metre wide driveway from the front boundary to the backyard. In this instance the side of the house was 4 metres away from the side boundary.

If you decide to retain the existing house because it is worth retaining and develop the backyard, there must be ample setbacks from back of house to back boundary. Generally a 16 metre upwards for the rear setback a typical block is good. That is 16metres from back of the house to the back fence ( as a general guide only)

A corner block could have 9m or less setback to rear boundary. That is the distance between the back of the house and the back boundary.

This is general advice as other factors come into play like the location of services and easements, Zoning, the Schedule to the Zoning, overlays, depth and width of site, plus orientation- which side faces north - and the plan of the exiting house which might require some layout modifications to meet planning objectives.

There are some planning overlays which are more complex than others. Each overlay has to be understood and applied.

If your land is near a water body (river, creek etc) it could be affected by a flooding overlay which might restrict development in the worst case scenario or impose floor levels ( height above natural ground).

Flood overlays could require modelling by specialist consultants costing thousands of dollars in fees.

Another overlay relate to Cultural Heritage. Building two dwellings in a lot might be exempt from a CHMP report. Building three or more could call for a CHMP report.

In recent Childcare project we designed, where the land was close to a creek and reserve the CHMP report took months to prepare and cost $50K!!

Contact Swarup to review the planning overlays on your land.

Contact us for a High Level opinion of the development potential. We will examine the title for any development restrictions as part of our review at no cost to you.

Common subdivision types.

Check the land size. A typical metropolitan property in and near Melbourne will yield a Stata titled subdivision where there is common or shared property like a shared

3 to 6.4m wide driveway.

( Think of a townhouse development- You will notice a narrower driveway within the development and the residents will drag their garbage bins to the front footpath)

In land with wider frontages the two dwellings of a Duplex subdivision will have their own driveways.

A larger block of say 5000sqm+ + could yield a house and land type Torrens Titled subdivision which will have a public road with nature strip(s), footpaths, kerb and gutter, street lighting and allow the garbage truck to leave safely ( via a round about in some instances). That public road and amenities could measure 16m in width and cost a lot, lot more to build than the Strata Titled driveway. Each lot will be connected to its own services.

( Think of it a typical house in any neighbourhood facing a footpath and road where the garbage truck will collect bins from the front of your land)

Ask us to review the title at no cost to you.

Step 1- Zoning and planning overlays ( one day)

AuArchitecture undertook a Planning Review. We checked the zoning and planning overlays.

The zoning allowed subdivision with no minimum lot size specified.

There were no variations to the Schedule which means we can have a Site Coverage of 60% and the Secluded Open Space was the typical 25sqm.

Variations to the Schedule could imply a 40 to 50% site coverage and 60sqm Secluded Open Space. Both such variations could have a negative impact on the development potential. Other negative variations could be large setbacks to boundaries- eg 5m to the rear boundary is seen in areas Council wants more landscaping.

There were some Planning overlays in the Chadstone block we had to respond to. They were related to vegetation and how any new house footprint had to be sited so the tree root system were not damaged.

Other planning overlays could control vegetation, flooding, bush fire, neighbourhood design style, building height, heritage and more.

Step 2- Design brief ( 7 days)

Swarup, our Principal, met with the family and discussed their wishlist.

We established the backyard could accommodate a two bedroom unit while complying with council's planning requirements regarding:

  • open spaces per dwelling (even the existing house was subject to this requirement)

  • car parking spaces

  • car turning circles

  • 3m wide driveway to the backyard and amongst other planning and regulatory matters

  • preserving the root structure of a large gum tree near the driveway.

AuArchitecture Dual Occupancy Planning approval
Typical dual occupancy in backyard with 3m wide driveway

A land survey was prepared and the preliminary design of the second house and the subdivision layout was submitted to the owner and approved by all parties.

A land survey was organised for a Feature survey and Re Establishment (RE) survey which identified the property boundaries.

Re Establishment surveys are critical when building to avoid any beaches on the boundaries.

Step 3- Town Planning Application lodged at Council ( 4-6 weeks)

The preliminary design was then developed into a set of drawings which formed the Town Planning Application.

The set of documents was lodged as the planning application with a town planning report, floor and roof plans, elevations, shadow diagrams and other relevant drawings for the second house in the backyard.

Example of a set of drawings submitted for Town Planning approval.

A subdivision plan was lodged at the same time saving 50% on Council application fees.

After about 28 days, Council issued a Request for Further Information (RFI) where the Council planning officer raised any concerns they had and requested information on the tree. All matters raised were addressed by AuArchitecture.

Council then advertised the Application and formed a decision to issue a Permit. This whole process can take anywhere between 6 months and 12+ months.

The subdivision permit was an "in principle approval" from Council for two new lots with a common driveway.

It was not the formal subdivision plan which is required for Registration of title.

This type of subdivision is a Strata Type with the two lots sharing a common driveway and other common property.

Step 4- Town Planning and Subdivision permit issued (6-8 months)

Council approved the plans for the second house and the proposed subdivision for two lots.

Lot 1 contained the front house and its associated open spaces and Lot 2 being the backyard which would accommodate the new house and it's associated open spaces.

The driveway was common/shared property.

The Planning Permit contained multiple conditions to be satisfied for the subdivision to formally proceed.

They included connection of the essential services to the new lot created in the backyard.

The services included connection to sewer, water, power, NBN etc. These can be called the required WORKS.

The subdivision permit allowed the parent and daughter enter into a sale contract with settlement to occur when the new lot (in the backyard) was formally registered.

Dual Occupancy subdivision
Our Founder walks the talk and developed his own dual occupancy subdivision

Swarup, our Founder, developed his first home into a highly successful Dual Occupancy subdivision. The sale proceeds paid off the mortgage and had enough left over to pay deposits on 2 further projects. He faced stiff obstruction fro neighbours and Council.

Ready to find out if you too can subdivide your property in Victoria

Free! HIGH LEVEL OPINION including review of the property title.

Contact us for a Free high levl opinion.

Step 4- Registration of titles (9- 15+ months)

Once Council approved the "in principle" subdivision, our Land Surveyor prepared formal plan of subdivision in a format acceptable for Registration and checked off by Council.

The daughter completed the works required by the Permit conditions and connected the services to the backyard.

On completion of these WORKS, Council issued a Statement of Compliance/Certificate of Compliance.

The client lodged the Certificate and formal plan of subdivision with the Titles Office in Melbourne.

Fees were payable to all statutory authorities.

The Titles office issued the legally Registered lots with the common property ( shared driveway).

The parent and daughter settled on the Sale.

Costs to date around $40,000 including completing the WORKS, professional fees, fees payable to the Statutory Authorities and connection fees.

Step 5 Building Permit to construct the second house

The daughter engaged a builder to construct the new house in the backyard.

The builder entered into a Contract which would allow construction of the new house as per the Building Permit drawings, which included more detailed construction drawings, structural and civil engineering, thermal assessment and landscape plan.


See an example of the Building Permit drawings also called Working Drawings.

The daughter's financial lender agreed to a construction loan which was paid to the builder at the appropriate stages.

Read about the building stages.

Are you thinking of Subdividing your backyard?

Get a HIGH LEVEL OPINION of what is possible. Its complimentary!

Swarup, our Founder, managed 250+ property subdivision permits. He walks the talk and did his own dual occupancy subdivision- overcoming all the challenges from council and neighbours!

Contact him for a high level opinion f what you can do on your land in Victoria.

Dual occupancy subdivision can be a typical one dwelling behind another, where the existing house is retained or removed; a side by side dual occupancy which is called a duplex or one on a corner lot. Other forms of subdivision are town house developments or larger land carved into smaller lots.

The owners son approached us to get planning approval for 2 very large duplex units with basement car parking.His parents had trid for a similar approval a few years ago but were not  successful.
Duplex subdivision at Dromana


The Doctor owner was doing his first development.. His feasbility required approval for 3 units on the small block. AuArchitecure designed three dwellings and had council town planning  approval.We then prepared the Building Permit drawings. The owners builder friend completed the project under 1miliion dollars.
3 townhouses on about 632sqm of land

Townhouse development for 3 lots with common (shared) driveway.

The neighbour next door decided to engage a top tier Architect for a duplex. Council REFUSED their Application!Town Planning is the marriage between good design which meets Town Planning controls. There is no other way!
Challenging site- 2 units approved and built! Developer reaps huge profit

DUPLEX 2 lot subdivision


Corner lot subdivision

Four townhouse subdivision with common driveway

Four townhouses approved by Merri Bek Council
Four townhouses approved for USA based client

Four townhouses with basement parking

Residential Growth Zone development
Eight units approved on 1300sqm land

Eight lot subdivision with shared driveway

Eight townhomes subdivision

Town houses in multi lot subdivision

Multi lot Torrens Title subdivision on 5 acre lot

Large lot subdivision in Torrens titled lot


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