Subdividing your land

Subdividing your land (subdivision) involves the partition of a parcel of land into smaller portions. Once land is subdivided, a ‘title’ is created for each new portion which can be separately sold and transferred.

A subdivision may involve the creation of separate titles for a dual occupancy, the partition of a single lot into two or more, or a residential development for the construction of strata units.

Land is usually subdivided to optimise its permissible use and to generate maximum profit. As it is a significant investment, it’s important for landowners to understand the process and to receive professional advice specific to the land, their circumstances and their investment objectives.

If you are thinking of purchasing land specifically for development, you should carry out due diligence to ensure that:

  1. it is suitable for the intended purpose; and
  2. your proposed use is permitted.

An experienced property and construction lawyer can assist with this process.

The role of council

Local councils administer the subdivision approval and certification processes. Councils will also consider any objections to a proposed subdivision.

During the approval process, the local council may refer plans for assessment to government authorities which may have an interest in the proposal, such as those responsible for services and infrastructure (e.g. water, gas, electricity and roads).

The referral process ensures that an authority’s interests in the land or its assets are addressed when the council considers whether to approve the proposed subdivision.

Regulations and processes

Subdivision of land is governed by legislation, regulations, planning schemes, policies and controls administered by local councils and other state or territory authorities.

Most subdivisions require approval from the local council. Each council has its own requirements for matters such as minimum lot sizes, zoning and engineering standards. In New South Wales, the subdivision process is generally as follows:

  1. the council contemplates the proposed subdivision in light of the objectives for the development, the permitted use of the land and governing laws and regulations;
  2. the landowner retains a licenced surveyor to prepare a plan of subdivision in accordance with the objectives, legislation and regulations;
  3. the landowner lodges a Development Application with the local council. If approval is granted, it will generally be subject to various conditions;
  4. the council issues a Construction Certificate which is the approval for works necessary to complete the subdivision to be carried out;
  5. when the subdivision works are completed and all conditions contained in the Development Application approval have been met, the council issues a Subdivision Certificate, authorising registration of the plan;
  6. the plan of subdivision, the administration sheet and other prescribed information, is lodged with NSW Land Registry Services for registration.

Can my land be subdivided?

One of the first steps in a proposed subdivision is ascertaining what type of development is permitted on the land. This is generally determined by the land’s zoning, which is set out in the local planning scheme. A title search, plan of the land, and zoning certificate provides preliminary information about the land.

The proposed subdivision must also be consistent with local, regional and state planning objectives and policies, and address environmental and other aspects including the provision of open space, access to new lots, and other facilities. The capacity for existing utilities, and services and infrastructure to support the proposed development will also be considered.

A property or construction lawyer, in conjunction with a registered surveyor, will help identify and explain the legal and technical aspects of the proposed development. Your lawyer can also liaise on your behalf with council and other authorities.

The surveyor will prepare a proposed plan of subdivision which may include the creation of various roads, lots, reserves, and / or common property. Plans may include the creation, variation or removal of easements and / or restrictions to meet statutory requirements and to ensure that the proposed development is functional.

What now?

Subdivision of land involves complex legal and technical processes. Draft plans may need to be revised to comply with laws and regulations before works commence.

A property lawyer can help by working with your surveyor, preparing the necessary property documents and explaining legal and titling concepts.

Contact us for more information or if you need help or advice.

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