Dependent Persons Unit (DPU)

What is a dependent persons unit (DPU)?

Dependent persons units (DPUs) are generally referred to as ‘granny flats’. However, planning legislation set by the State Government contains definitions and criteria for certain land uses. A ‘granny flat’ is not defined anywhere in the legislation and the closest equivalent in ‘planning speak’ is a DPU. A dependent persons unit is defined by the planning scheme as:

A movable building on the same lot as an existing dwelling and used to provide accommodation for a person dependent on a resident of the existing dwelling.


What is a movable building?

A ‘movable building’ is defined within the planning scheme as:

A structure, other than a tent, caravan, or vehicle, which is designed to be moved from place to place on more than one occasion.

Therefore a DPU must be a building and cannot be a caravan or vehicle. As such, a DPU cannot be in the form of a ‘tiny house’ (caravan on wheels). ‘Tiny houses’ are also not defined by the planning scheme and there is a separate Planning Guideline for ‘tiny houses

What is considered to be dependency?

The term ‘dependency’ or ‘dependent person’ isn’t defined within the planning scheme and therefore follows its ordinary meaning. A ‘dependant’ is defined in the Macquarie Dictionary to mean ‘depending on something else for aid, support, etc.’

Generally, the following principles apply when establishing dependency:

  • It is a person accommodated in the movable building who must be ‘dependent’.
  • Their dependence must be on a resident (rather than landowner) of the existing dwelling on the same lot as the movable building.

While the person being accommodated within the DPU isn’t required to be a member of the resident’s family, some form of relationship (i.e. financial) will be necessary for the occupant of the DPU to be able to rely on the resident to satisfy or contribute to satisfying one or more of their needs.


Dependent Persons Unit or Second Dwelling?

Once a DPU is no longer being used by a person dependent on the primary resident, the building is likely to be considered a second dwelling. In this case planning permission must be sought for the use and development.

It is important to note that some planning controls affecting land on the Mornington Peninsula prohibit the use and development of a second dwelling. 


When is a building considered to be a dwelling?

A dwelling is defined within the planning scheme as:

A building used as a self-contained residence which must include:

a) a kitchen sink

 b) food preparation facilities

c) a bath or shower

d) a toilet and wash basin.


What about other forms of accommodation?

If your enquiry relates to other forms of accommodation, such as ‘community care accommodation’ or ‘rooming house’, the planning scheme provides definitions for such uses. See below table of different types of accommodation that may be relevant to your enquiries:


Land Use


Community care accommodation

Land used to provide accommodation and care services. It includes permanent, temporary and emergency accommodation. It may include supervisory staff and support services for residents and visitors.

Rooming house

Land used for a rooming house as defined in theResidential Tenancies Act 1997.

Residential village

Land, in one ownership, containing a number of dwellings, used to provide permanent accommodation and which includes communal, recreation, or medical facilities for residents of the village.


Please note that ‘tiny houses’ are not a land use term defined by the Planning Scheme. If you are seeking information regarding ‘tiny houses’, please refer to our Planning Guidelines for Tiny Houses.  

If your enquiry relates to one of the above listed uses, it is recommended that you contact Planning Services to further discuss your proposal. 


Frequently Asked Questions

I am unsure whether my proposal meets the criteria for a DPU, how can I seek further assistance?

If you are unsure whether your proposal would be considered as a dependent persons unit you should contact Planning Services on (03) 5950 1010 for further information.

Will I need a planning permit for a DPU?

This will depend on the planning controls affecting your property. To obtain a copy of the planning controls affecting your land you can download a free Planning Report. Alternatively, you may contact Planning Services on (03) 5950 1010 for further assistance.

Do I need a building permit for a DPU?

Yes. While you may have been advised that you do not require a planning permit for a DPU on your property, you will however require a building permit. Please refer to Building Permits - Mornington Peninsula Shire for further information.

How do I lodge a planning application?

Lodge your Planning application

What information am I required to submit when making a planning application for a DPU?

If you have been advised that a planning permit is required, you must submit the following:

  • A completed Application for a Planning Permit Form
  • A current Certificate of Title (including the relevant plan of subdivision and any applicable S173 agreements/covenants). The title must be produced in the past 3 months
  • Payment of the prescribed application fee (refer to our fee schedule for further information)
  • Site plan, Elevation plan and Floor plan (at a preferred scale of 1:100)
  • A building materials and colour schedule (colour swatch samples).

I have been advised that I don’t require a planning permit for a DPU on my property, how can I obtain this advice in writing?

You can lodge a written general enquiry and a response will be provided within 10 business days.

Please note a fee applies for this service. Please refer to our fee schedule for further information. 

Lodge a general enquiry