Unauthorised Building Work

Before the 1st of July 1992, building work required a Building Permit. The 1991 Building Act was implemented on the 1st of July 1992, and after the implementation of this Act, building work required a Building Consent. When building work from the Building Consent era is finished, a Code Compliance Certificate should be issued by the relevant Building Consent Authority; Building Permits did not require these certificates.

Our inspectors regularly encounter unauthorised building work. This is work which required a building permit or consent, and does not have one. These are some examples of the most common types of unauthorised work we see:

  • The removal of load bearing walls,
  • Addition of plumbing fixtures into bathrooms,
  • Installation of a wet floor shower,
  • Widening of lintels over previous windows to install French doors or a ranch slider,
  • Enclosure of porches to form a part of a larger room (such as a kitchen).

Unauthorised building work can have future implications for the home owner, including with re-sale, and potentially insurance. You, as the home owner or potential home owner, have a responsibility to disclose information about the dwelling to your insurance company. It is always our recommendation that you fully disclose any unauthorised building work to your insurer, and discuss any potential implications of this in detail.

The responsibility of obtaining a Building Consent lies with the home owner, not the person carrying out the work. If the local Building Consent Authority becomes aware of unauthorised building work, they may issue a Notice to Fix. A Notice to Fix is a statutory notice requiring the remediation of a breach of the Building Act, or regulations under that Act.

Where unauthorised building work was carried out in the Building Permit era – prior to the 1st of July 1992, a competent person can carry out what is known as a Third Party or Safe and Sanitary report. These reports add a record of the unauthorised work, the current condition of the unauthorised work, and an amended floor plan to the property file. There is no way to retrospectively issue a permit.

Where unauthorised building work has been carried out in the Building Consent era – after the 1st of July 1992, a Certificate of Acceptance is required with the local Building Consent Authority. These must be completed by a suitably qualified architectural draughtsperson or practicing engineer. With a Certificate of Acceptance, invasive investigation or remedial work may be required to bring the work up to a required standard of the Building Code.

Schedule 1 of the Building Act covers exempt building work – this is work that does not require a building consent. One common oversight with exempt building work, is that although it does not require a building consent, it still must comply with all relevant sections of the Building Code. To learn more about exempt building work, we recommend you visit: https://www.building.govt.nz/projects-and-consents/planning-a-successful-build/scope-and-design/check-if-you-need-consents/building-consent-exemptions-for-low-risk-work/schedule-1-guidance/ and download the PDF guide. There was no exempt building work prior to the implementation of the 1991 Building Act on the 1st of July 1992.

A common misconception you may have heard, is that something ‘didn’t require a permit back then’ - the oldest permit our head office has seen is from 1908. Unfortunately, it is common for early permits to have become lost through miss-managed filing by councils over the years, or accidental destruction.

1908 Permit

1908 drainage plan

Our Silver and Gold report packages include our inspectors obtaining and checking the council records for you as a part of the inspection process. Council records are also commonly referred to as a property file, or building file, and contains the building permits and consents for the property you are looking to purchase. Please note, this is not a Land Information Memorandum report and we cannot advise you on whether or not to obtain a LIM – we recommend that you talk to your lawyer in this regard.

Don’t let undiscovered unauthorised building work be a part of your purchase, give us a call today on 0800 4 TRUTH for your pre-purchase inspection.

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