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Can a SMSF Add Box Houses on Wheels or Ground-Installed as a Granny Flat Without Changing the Title of the Property as an Improvement?

Self-Managed Super Funds (SMSFs) offer a unique way for individuals to take control of their retirement savings and investment strategies. Among the many investment options available to SMSFs, property investment remains a popular choice. However, SMSF trustees often encounter various regulatory and strategic questions, one of which is the potential for adding improvements to properties owned by the SMSF. Specifically, can a SMSF add box houses on wheels or ground-installed as a granny flat without changing the title of the property as an improvement? Let’s delve into this topic.

Understanding the SMSF Property Rules

SMSF investments must comply with strict regulations set out by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). These rules ensure that the fund’s investments are made solely for the purpose of providing retirement benefits to its members. When it comes to property, the regulations become particularly stringent, especially concerning improvements and alterations.

What Constitutes an Improvement?

Under SMSF rules, an “improvement” generally refers to changes or additions that enhance the value of the property beyond its original state. This includes structural changes, renovations, and additions like granny flats. The critical aspect is whether these changes constitute an enhancement or simply maintain the property’s condition.

Box Houses on Wheels and Ground-Installed Granny Flats

Box Houses on Wheels

Box houses on wheels, often used as mobile granny flats, have gained popularity due to their flexibility and relatively low cost. Since these structures are not permanently affixed to the land, they might not be considered a traditional “improvement.” However, their classification can depend on local council regulations and whether they require building approval or are deemed temporary structures.

Ground-Installed Granny Flats

Ground-installed granny flats, while potentially more permanent than box houses on wheels, can still be designed to be non-invasive to the main property structure. However, these flats typically require building approval and can be viewed as an enhancement to the property, thus falling into the category of improvements under SMSF regulations.

SMSF Compliance Considerations

When contemplating adding a box house or a granny flat to an SMSF-owned property, trustees must consider the following compliance aspects:

  1. Sole Purpose Test: Any investment or improvement must be for the sole purpose of providing retirement benefits. The addition should not provide current-day benefits to members or related parties.
  2. Investment Strategy: The fund’s investment strategy should be updated to reflect the addition and justify how it aligns with the overall goals of the SMSF.
  3. Borrowing Restrictions: If the property was acquired through a Limited Recourse Borrowing Arrangement (LRBA), any improvement must not alter the fundamental nature of the property. Enhancements funded by borrowings can breach SMSF borrowing rules.
  4. Title and Ownership: Trustees need to ensure that the addition of a granny flat does not necessitate a change in the title or ownership structure of the property, which can have tax and legal implications.

State and Council Definitions

Box Houses on Wheels (Tiny Homes):

  • In general, tiny homes on wheels are considered temporary structures and are subject to local council regulations which vary across Australia. For instance, they may be classified differently based on whether they are used for long-term living or temporary accommodation.
  • Most councils will require compliance with local zoning laws, which may dictate where these homes can be placed and how long they can remain in one location without being moved.

Ground-Installed Granny Flats:

  • These are typically considered more permanent structures and are subject to stricter building codes and regulations. They often require building permits and must comply with local residential construction standards.
  • In most Australian states, granny flats are seen as significant improvements, necessitating adherence to local planning laws and building codes.

Practical Steps for Compliance

  1. Consult Local Councils: Engage with local council authorities to understand specific requirements and restrictions related to temporary and permanent dwellings.
  2. Update Investment Strategy: Reflect any changes or additions in the SMSF’s investment strategy and ensure they align with the sole purpose test.
  3. Professional Advice: Seek advice from SMSF advisors and legal professionals to navigate the complexities of SMSF regulations and local council laws.
Consult Local CouncilsEngage with local council authorities to understand specific requirements.Check zoning laws, building codes, and permit requirements.
Update Investment StrategyReflect any changes or additions in the SMSF’s investment strategy.Ensure alignment with the sole purpose test.
Seek Professional AdviceConsult with SMSF advisors and legal professionals.Navigate complexities of SMSF regulations and local council laws.
Obtain Necessary ApprovalsSecure permits and approvals from local councils.Required for both temporary (box houses) and permanent (granny flats).
Document ComplianceKeep thorough records of decisions, consultations, and updates.Demonstrate compliance with ATO regulations.
Regular Valuation and ReportingEnsure regular property valuations and report changes in property value.Reflect the impact of additions on the SMSF’s financial statements.


While adding box houses on wheels or ground-installed granny flats to an SMSF-owned property can be a strategic move, it requires careful consideration of SMSF regulations and compliance requirements. Trustees must ensure that such additions align with the sole purpose test, do not breach borrowing rules, and comply with local council regulations. By taking a methodical approach and seeking professional advice, SMSFs can potentially enhance their property investments while remaining within the bounds of the law.


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