Shades of grey

  • fatweb
  • Legal
  • May 15, 2013
  • 0 Comment

Gaining consent for your homebuilding project can be a daunting and confusing process and ‘grey’ areas often emerge during this process.

In any home building or construction project there are a number of obligations that fall to the various parties involved. As a homeowner, one of most critical obligations you have is to apply for a building consent where one is required.

With the Building Act 2004 and the New Zealand Building Code forming the basis of this discussion, it is important you are aware and comfortable with the role of each.

The Building Act 2004 is the legislation around building work, outlining the regulations that must be met, in order for a building project to lawfully comply. While the Building Code is the performance criteria and acceptable solutions to these regulations, that must be met in order for the building to be constructed in a manner that deems it compliant.

Among more than 400 sections and schedules, section 14B of the Building Act 2004 states that it is the homeowner’s responsibility to determine whether the building work to be carried out requires a building consent, or not. And in the event of requiring one, obtain the necessary consent, approval and certificates.

It goes on to further state that the homeowner responsibilities include ensuring the building work carried out complies with the building consent, or if there is no building consent, with the building code.

Contention and shades of grey emerge when work is being undertaken to an existing home – be it a renovation or a repair. Section 17 of the Building Act comments that all work must comply with the building code, whether a building consent is required or not, while Section 112 comments that no alterations can be made to existing buildings without a consent.

This causes tension to rise around what is defined as repair and home maintenance and what is an alteration. Where for example, is a crack in a lining a cosmetic repair (possibly exempt) and where is it repair to the primary structure (possibly consent required).

In our repairs to quake damaged homes this grey area is emerging more and more. Under the notion of home maintenance, a window may be removed for the cladding to be repaired. However, in many instances, this causes the window cavity to alter slightly to conform to the replacement or repair of the cladding. So as a consequence the window cannot be put back in a compliant manner and potentially falling outside of Section 17 and the scope of maintenance.

For the average homeowner this is a daunting notion to get your head around, so in the first instance it is important to ask yourself whether you feel suitably qualified to make the call whether the work being undertaken will require a consent or not.

To assist you in this is Schedule 1 of the Building Act 2004, which determines the parameters of work exempt from building consent. While this is an extensive list, it is often subject to change and can include work not outlined in the schedule, but exempt by order in council.

The Building Act outlines the role of the designer as being responsible for ensuring the plans and specifications are sufficient to result in the building work complying with the building code – if the building work was properly completed in accordance with those plans and specifications.

So while your designer may be experienced in designing homes to meet the building code and able to advise you on consent, it is imperative you are comfortable with their advice, as the obligation to determine if their work requires consent falls to you alone.

Where in doubt, the local council can issue an exemption certificate. This process sees you submit an outline of your project to the council for advice on consent – they will either issue you with an exemption certificate or guide you down the next part of the process.

For less than $500 this leaves you with the peace of mind that your project is covered with the right consents and certificates. It is critical to remember that irrespective of whether the work you are undertaking requires consent or not, it MUST comply with the Building Code.

You can download the Building Act from or more for information on the Building Code visit

With more than 20 years industry experience, Cymon Allfrey holds the Chair of the ADNZ National Board and has won the ADNZ National Supreme Award three times in the past five years.

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