Building Permits

A building permit has to be obtained before construction of any building in Indonesia begins. The building permit is also known as an IMB or Ijin Mendirikan Bangunan, it specifies the approved initial design of the building but it also continues through the buildings life stating what the building can be used for. Here we look at what the IMB is, how you apply for one, the documents you will need and some notes about compliance with building regulations.


The IMB or Ijin Mendirikan Bangunan

IMB stands for Ijin Mendirikan Bangunan which literally means “permit to establish a building” commonly known as a “Building Permit”.It is an approval from the government to build a building.

IMBs are important, very important.

Make no mistake, after the land certificate the IMB is probably the most important document regarding properties in Indonesia. The building permit is not only a permit to carry out the initial building but it also continues through the building’s life as a registration document. The permit defines (through a pile of associated documents that are lodged with the application) the specification of the building that is or has been built and the purpose the building can be used for.

All buildings in Bali should have an IMB

Unfortunately many don’t.

The IMB is the responsibility of the owner of the building. If you are the owner then it will be your responsibility, if you rent or lease a building it is your landlord’s responsibility. Do not buy or lease a building that does not have an IMB or you may have problems. If you lease a building that has an IMB and wish to use it for a different purpose than is stated on the IMB (say you want to use your building for keeping elephants or perhaps for night time activities involving “social networking” when it is currently registered as a private house) then the IMB must be changed. If a villa is to be rented out rather than used as a private residence you also probably need to be careful

Balinese people often do not bother getting an IMB but take note – they can get away with it. Don’t assume that you will be able to. Once a government official smells a walking ATM with a foreign passport you will (or will not) be surprised just how quickly compliance with the law can be officially urged. This may happen even more quickly should your neighbour not like elephants or does not appreciate the more subtle aspects of “social networking”.

How to get an IMB or Building Permit

Obtaining an IMB is really a part of the town planning process. Permits are issued by the Dinas Tata Ruang Kota dan Pemukiman which means the Department of Town Planning and Settlements. With the IMB certificate comes a metal plate rather like a car number plate to be mounted at the front of the building.

Documents you will need

To get an IMB it is necessary to submit a pile of documents that will include the following:

  • A land certificate including the relevant survey plan.
  • An ijing Kavling (permit to subdivide) if one is needed.
  • Correct land zoning for the building that is planned.
  • Drawings of the buildings that comply with local building regulations.
  • Structural and services drawings to make sure that the buildings have been properly designed and specified.
  • Signed permission from all owners of directly neigbouring properties.

A common pitfall for unwary property buyers in Bali is the fact that, while there are many professional developers that do the right thing, there are quite a number that start building before they have obtained an IMB. This is illegal.

I recently came upon what is, sadly, an all too common occurrence, a very expensive villa nearing completion which we were able to determine had no IMB. I suggest that if someone is going to spend perhaps a million dollars building a villa it is a perfectly reasonable expectation that a building permit is obtained beforehand.

In fact it is hard to understand why developers or builders so often proceed without an IMB. If they comply with the regulations and obtain the permit at the start they will avoid problems and increased expense later on.

Keep everything legal

Many assume that financial lubrication will achieve anything but bear in mind three things:

  1. The further the building process progresses, the larger the dose of lubricant that will be required.
  2. The fact that someone (perhaps your developer) does not wish to seek an IMB before starting the building process is a sign to you, it immediately suggests a lack of integrity and further that something is probably not right – perhaps the design is not acceptable or there is not a full set of drawings..
  3. Times are changing, government is being cleaned up and lubricant is becoming a dirty concept, it may be that an IMB is obtained now but, beware, if the building doesn’t comply you could well have a problem later on.

It appears that many IMB applications in Bali are “arranged” and “eased” through the system. This is not a good idea because the staff in government departments have a tendency to move on and a holder of an arranged IMB may suddenly find new staff have arrived and start to check the records.

Remember that the drawings and specifications of your building submitted for the IMB remain on file and at any time in the future they may be pulled out and compared to the building.

This is what has been happening in and around Singaraja in recent months where local authorities have been carrying out checks to make sure that houses have IMBs, that the building usage matches the IMB and also that the building taxes have been paid. Do not doubt the government’s resolve, a bad outcome can lead to demolition and several expatriates in that area have been warned, if they cannot resolve their issues they may well find themselves in trouble.

Compliance with building regulations

Compliance with building regulations is checked in the IMB process. For example it is policy that buildings should be no higher than the palm trees. How high is a palm tree, well, for implementation purposes, it is defined as five floors or 15 metres. There is, of course, one famous exception to this rule – the Grand Bali Beach Hotel which was built by the government in the 1960s before the “palm tree” rule was established.

Building design must have elements of Balinese design

The design of buildings is also checked in the IMB process. It is stated government policy enshrined in legislation that buildings are to have elements of traditional Balinese design in them.


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