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This guide is a starting point to find out what's relevant to starting your housing construction business.

Before you invest time and money into setting up your business by registering and applying for the right business licences, make sure you put together a business plan and carefully consider how viable your business is.

Get in touch with a trusted local advisor available through the NSW Government's Business Connect program, or with an industry association to get advice specific to your area.

Choosing a business structure

Before starting a small business, it's important you choose the best structure for your business type. The most commonly used business structures are sole trader, company, partnership, and trust.

Set up as a sole trader
Operating as a sole trader is the simplest and cheapest business structure you can set up. You control and manage the business, and although you 'trade' on your own, you can still employ people to work for you.

Register a company
If you've decided a company structure is best for your business, you'll need to register your company with the Australian Government.

Register a limited partnership
If you’ve decided a limited partnership structure is best for your business, you’ll need to register the limited partnership with the NSW Fair Trading’s Registry Services.

Set up a trust business structure
A trust is an obligation imposed on one person or entity – the trustee, to hold property for the benefit of another – the beneficiary. The trustee can be an individual or a company, the latter providing some asset protection.

Register a co-operative
If you've decided a co-operative is best for your business, you'll need to register the co-operative with NSW Fair Trading's Registry Services.

Starting a business

Register an Australian Business Number (ABN)
You don't have to register for an ABN, but an ABN will let you claim Goods and Services Tax credits, energy grants credits, register an Australian domain name, plus more.

Register a business name
You'll need to register a business name, unless you're a sole trader or partnership and your business name is exactly the same as your or you and your partner's first and last names.

Register your business for Goods and Services Tax (GST)
You must register your business for GST if your GST turnover is $75,000 or more.

Apply for a business Tax File Number
If you've decided a company, trust, or partnership structure is best for your business, you'll need to apply for a business Tax File Number. 

Apply for an individual Tax File Number
If you’ve decided a sole trader structure is best for your business, you’ll need to apply for an individual Tax File Number.

Check the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR)
Before you buy or lease vehicles, equipment, materials or goods for your business, search the PPSR to avoid property that is stolen, unable to be insured, or subject to a debt or security interest.

Applying for housing construction licences

Apply for an Individual Contractor's Licence
You’ll need an Individual Contractor’s Licence if you want to do paid residential building work over $5,000.

Apply for a Partnership Contractor's Licence
You’ll need a Partnership Contractor’s Licence if you operate as a partnership that contracts, sub-contracts and/or advertises to do residential building work. A partnership is usually 2 or more people who are the legal entity behind the licence.

Apply for a Company Contractor's Licence
You’ll need a Company Contractor’s Licence if your organisation wants to contract, sub-contract and/or advertise to do residential building work. Your application needs to include a Nominated Supervisor that holds an Individual Contractor Licence or Qualified Supervisor Licence.

Apply for a Qualified Supervisor's Certificate
If you want to supervise residential building work, you’ll need to hold a Qualified Supervisor’s Certificate.

Apply for a general construction induction card
If you work in construction in NSW, you’ll need to hold a construction induction card, also known as a White Card. You’ll need to complete general construction induction training before starting work or applying for a card.

Apply for a high risk work licence
You’ll need to hold a high risk work licence to do high risk construction work, including operating cranes, forklifts, hoists and pressure equipment. You’ll need to complete high risk work training before starting work or applying for a card.

Mutual recognition of licensed occupations
If you’re already a licensed contractor in another state or territory, your qualifications may be recognised in NSW.

Taking out insurance and contracts

Get liability insurance for your business
You can choose to take out public liability, professional indemnity, or product liability insurance. Public liability insurance protects you and your business against the risks of damage or injury to people or property. While it's not mandatory, it's essential for a business.

Apply for a certificate of eligibility
Before you can apply for home building compensation (HBC) cover you need a certificate of eligibility.

Apply for home building compensation cover
If you’re a builder or tradesperson doing work on a residential building valued at $20,000 or more, including GST, you need to get home building compensation (HBC) cover.

Building industry reforms
New requirements for residential homes to be designed and built-in compliance with the Building Code of Australia.

Contract management

Managing residential building contracts
All residential building work worth over $5,000 requires a written contract

Understanding contracts
When you agree to do a job for another person or business for money or some other benefit, you’re probably entering into a commercial contract. If so, this is legally enforceable regardless of whether it was just a 'handshake deal' or a written agreement.

Fair Trading home building contracts
Free, downloadable contract templates for small jobs and larger jobs.

Contracts – Fair Trading
Understand your customer's rights.

Setting up workers

Comply with Fair Work requirements
If you’re employing staff you must comply with Fair Work requirements like minimum pay and conditions.

Paying employees at award rates
You must make sure you're providing at least minimum wages and conditions for your permanent employees. These conditions are covered in the awards.

Register for PAYG withholding
You'll need to register for PAYG withholding if you need to withhold tax (on behalf of the Australian Tax Office) from payments you make to employees, contractors, or other businesses that haven't supplied you an ABN.

Register with the Long Service Leave scheme (building and construction)
The Long Service Corporation (LSC) remunerates workers for long service in the housing construction industry. You must register as a building and construction employer with the LSC and comply with its requirements.

Paying super contributions using SuperStream
SuperStream is the way all employers are required to pay contributions and send information to super funds.

Register for the superannuation clearing house
If you have 19 or fewer employees or have an aggregated turnover below $2 million, you can register for the small business superannuation clearing house to pay super contributions to your employees in a single online location.

Use the Superannuation Guarantee Contributions Calculator
Use the calculator to check the super contributions you need to pay your employees.

Comply with work health and safety laws
You must comply with work health and safety (WHS) laws so that people who come into contact with your business (customers, contractors or visitors) are kept healthy and safe.

Apply for a workers compensation insurance policy
If you're going to pay more than $7,500 a year in wages, you'll need to have a workers compensation insurance policy.

Managing contractors and employees
You have different responsibilities if you engage contractors rather than permanent employees. It's important for you to learn about the differences.

Your employees and apprentices
Programs to support the employment of our workforce.

Dealing with customers

Dealing with customers – builders and tradespeople
Building and renovating are complex tasks, so take the time to answer any concerns your customers might have, and be open to identifying problems early, so you can take steps to manage any potentially difficult situation.

Lodge a home building complaint with NSW Fair Trading
If you're involved in a home building dispute with an owner and have been unable to resolve the issue privately, you can seek advice from, or lodge a complaint with, NSW Fair Trading. They'll act as an informal negotiator, at no charge.

Apply for a home building complaint hearing (NCAT)
You can apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) for a hearing in a home building dispute up to the value of $500,000. Before NCAT can accept your application you must have first attempted negotiation through NSW Fair Trading.

Grants, financial help and general business support

Grants and programs finder
This tool can help you find out if you’re eligible to apply for a grant or program and what you could receive if successful.

General business support
Information about ongoing business support and the free resources that are available.

Other things to consider

Register a trade mark
A trade mark (sometimes called a brand) is the way you show your customers and the public who you are.

Register a domain name for your business
With an ABN, you can register a website name that ends with '.au'.

Continuing professional development – builders
All licensed builders must undertake continuing professional development (CPD) each year, in order to renew their licence.

Notify SafeWork NSW of an incident
Under work health and safety legislation, certain 'notifiable incidents' must be immediately reported to SafeWork NSW.

Apply online for a development application (DA)
If you're applying for a Development Application (DA) for a proposed development, you'll need to create an account on the NSW Planning Portal and complete your application online.