Inappropriate Use of Land

1. Overview

The use of private property is subject to a number of legal requirements. These are intended to ensure that reasonable standards of safety, health and amenity are maintained across the municipality. It is important for landowners to be aware of these requirements and to not use their land or allow it to be used by others in a way that breaches these laws.

Inappropriate use of land is becoming more prevalent. For this reason, Council has developed policy and procedure for responding to these issues.  This policy informs the community about Council’s approach when responding to inappropriate use of land.

2. What is inappropriate use of land?

This policy covers the following types of inappropriate uses on private land:

  • Living in sheds, shipping containers or other structures that have not be subject to a building permit and inspection process;
  • Carrying out building work without a building permit including renovations and extensions to existing dwellings, relocating cabins, dwellings or other structures onto land to live in or building carports, sheds, fences, pergolas and the like;
  • Having shipping containers on land without a local laws permit, planning permit or building permit (as required);
  • Camping on private land for extended periods of time or in breach of other conditions;
  • Living on land that does not have appropriate septic and waste management system in place with necessary permissions for council for the proposed system;
  • Overgrown grass, vegetation and other fire hazards;
  • Excessive numbers of unregistered vehicles and other household waste accumulating on land over a long period of time;
  • Unsightly or dangerous land;
  • Burning of waste or other materials;

Although land may be privately owned, this does not mean that it can be used in a way that gives rise to safety, health or amenity risks or is unsightly, all of which can impact on the safety of occupiers and affect the broader community.

3. Council may take action where the use of land is unlawful

There are a number of laws which prohibit the above activities on land. These include Local Laws, Planning and Building Laws and Environmental Laws.

Council appoints officers to conduct inspections, engage with owners and occupiers to inform them of their obligations. Officers also issue orders or initiate court proceedings where there are breaches of these laws. In some cases, Council can also enter land and undertake works to remove risks or stop breaches of these laws.

Council prefers to work cooperatively with landowners and occupiers. Council understands that it can be challenging for owners to understand all the laws that apply to them and that people sometimes do things which they do not realise are prohibited by laws. For this reason, when inappropriate use of land is identified, in most cases, in the first instance, Council officers will try to help by explaining why the use is unlawful and what the owner or occupier must do to stop breaching the law.

Where an owner or occupier is not willing to cooperate and stop the unlawful activity or seek the approvals that should have been obtained, Council officers will escalate the matter to issue orders to require works or evacuate the land and potentially initiate legal proceedings.  They may also give you notice that they will enter the land to undertake work to mitigate risks or address the unlawful conduct. Council officers will endeavour to communicate clearly and act reasonably and fairly at all times. However, aggressive or abusive behaviour will not be tolerated.

4. Avoid inappropriate use of land by making enquiries first

Rather than be in a situation where you have incurred cost to do something which turns out to be unlawful and may result in enforcement action or further cost (for example to remove an unlawful shipping container or structure on land), Council encourages people to contact the Council to discuss its plans and inform itself of the laws that apply.

You should not presume that just because you see an activity occurring on another person’s land, this means it is lawful and you can do the same thing on your land.

5. Hardship and adversity

Council is aware that many people in the community are experiencing hardship, health issues or adversity. This may be one reasons why they are converting sheds or other structures to living areas or living in caravans or tents for extended periods of time.

Unfortunately, Council cannot allow people to live in conditions which are unsafe, unhealthy or lack minimum standards of amenity. Council will work with people in these situations to connect them to social and community services to seek advice on alternative accommodation options.

6. Holiday makers and short-term visits

Inappropriate use of land can also occur when a person wishes to visit their property for a short term stay over a holiday period or the like. Council’s General Local Law prohibits camping on private land for more than 60 days in total over a 12-month period. Camping includes occupying a tent, caravan, motor home, campervan or temporary dwelling. There are a number of other conditions for camping on private land, regardless of the length of stay.

7. Having a shed on land without a dwelling

In some areas of Yarriambiack Shire, the planning scheme prohibits the construction of a shed on land that does not contain a dwelling. In all other areas, a shed can be considered through a planning permit application. However, regardless of where the shed is located, the building regulations makes it inappropriate to use any shed as a dwelling.

Living in a shed is not appropriate as a shed does not meet minimum standards of safety and amenity required by building regulations. Changing a shed to a dwelling requires a building permit and works to make the shed comply with the building regulations.

8. Shipping Containers

Shipping containers cannot be placed on land unless a building permit is obtained.

A planning or local laws permit may also be required. Living in shipping containers is not permitted without required approvals.

9. Managing risk and resources

As noted above, inappropriate use of land is becoming more prevalent. This is why Council has a renewed focus on this area and on ensuring that it is responding to these risks and working with the community educate, prevent and stop unlawful activity.

Council will act in the public interest and take a risk-based approach to determining how it responds to complaints and how it progresses its enforcement activity when unlawful activities on land are detected.

In taking this approach, Council will allocate its limited resources to the higher risk issues. Council will also communicate about its activities in relation to inappropriate use of land. This may include education activities and issuing media statements about its enforcement activities including the outcomes of successful court  proceedings.

You can contact council via email or via phone on (03) 5398 0100.