Licensing and restricted building work FAQs


Restricted building work

What will constitute restricted building work?

Restricted building work will apply to design and building work critical to the integrity of a house or small-to-medium sized apartment buildings.


This means:
• The design and construction of the foundations and framing to ensure the building can withstand vertical and horizontal loads,
• The design and construction of roofing and cladding to ensure the building is weathertight,
• The design of active fire alarm systems in small-to-medium sized apartments to ensure people are alerted to the dangers of smoke/fire etc.

This sort of work is complex, needs to be done right and should, therefore, be done by a competent person.
• Restricted building work will not apply to any building work that does not require a building consent.
• All restricted building work will have to be carried out or supervised by a licensed building practitioner.


When will requirements relating to restricted building work take effect?

They will take effect from 1 March 2012.


What happens between now and then in terms of restricted building work?

Anyone can continue to carry out this type of work, though builders are accountable under the implied warranty provisions of the Building Act 2004 for the quality of their work.


Why won’t restricted building work apply to buildings bigger than a house or small-to-medium sized apartment block?


Applying restricted building work to complex commercial building projects involving large numbers of tradespeople would add administration time and cost without providing additional benefit.
Commercial construction and most high-rise apartment buildings are typically undertaken by professionally managed construction companies, and problems that arise are already managed effectively through commercial contractual arrangements. People purchasing a new home or a small-to-medium sized apartment often don’t have the same protections.


Does the exclusion of commercial building projects and high-rise apartment buildings mean those who work on them won’t need to be licensed building practitioners?

Workers in the construction sector don’t just work on one sort of building type.
In practice, many workers on commercial projects and high-rise apartment buildings will become licensed to have their competence recognised, and because it will allow them to carry out or supervise a wider range of building work.


Owner-builder (DIY) exemption from restricted building work


Why are restrictions being placed on DIYers?

Most of the work that DIYers undertake will not be affected by restricted building work requirements because:
• a lot of DIY work does not need a building consent, and
• much of the work DIYers do that needs a building consent will not be restricted building work because it is not critical to the integrity of the building.

There is little history of significant problems with building work done by owner-builders. DIYers generally recognise their limits and get professional help when needed. However, limits are needed for two main reasons:
• Prospective home-buyers need to be able to decide for themselves if they want to buy a home that is built by a DIYer. If something goes wrong with the house they also will be able to take this up with the DIYer by finding the details on council files.
• Overseas experience with similar rules shows that some tradespeople who do not meet licensing standards may use the exemption as a back-door way of carrying out restricted building work without being licensed.



How will restricted building work affect DIYers?

Restricted building work won’t apply to the installation of a door or a window, most kitchen and bathroom renovations, and free-standing decks less than one metre high, because this work does not require a building consent.
Nor will restricted building work apply to work like removing an internal wall or building a conservatory, or to buildings that aren’t regularly occupied, such as garages, carports, sheds, fences and retaining walls, and farm buildings.


Is there any immediate effect on DIYers?

Until restricted building work is introduced in March 2012, there is no limit to the work a DIYer can undertake, subject to council building consent requirements.


How will DIYers get an exemption from restricted building work requirements?


DIYers will be able to seek an exemption from restricted building work requirements when they apply to their local building consent authority (council) for a building consent, if a consent is needed for their proposed work.

Various conditions will apply to the exemption. These require that the person seeking the exemption:
• is an individual (they can’t be a company or trust),
• has a legal, beneficial or equitable interest in the property,

• lives in, or intend to lives in the property (this includes a bach or holiday home),
• carries out the work themselves, or with a close friend or relative, and
• completes statutory declarations at both building consent and code compliance certificate stages that they meet these conditions.


What is the purpose of the declarations?

The declarations that the owner-builder or DIYer meets exemption requirements will be held on council files. This means that future purchasers of the property will be able to choose whether they want to buy a house built by a DIYer, and will be able to take action against the DIYer if the restricted building work proves defective.


Is any liability attached to the exemption?

A DIYer who obtains an exemption will be accepting accountability for the work.
This means that a future owner of the property could take legal action against the DIYer if work that was subject to the exemption turned out to be faulty.


Will a DIYer be able to get more than one exemption?

A further exemption will be available three years after the DIYer completes work on the property for which the earlier exemption was sought. This, together with the other conditions for an exemption, is designed to prevent restricted building work being carried out by people who are working in the industry but are not licensed building practitioners.


Will the declaration be enforceable?

Supplying false or misleading information in a declaration for an exemption would be an offence under the Building Act 2004, with a fine of up to $5000.


Can a DIYer employ tradespeople to help them out?

Tradespeople can only carry out or supervise restricted building work if they are licensed. So, a DIYer who applies for an exemption will be able to do restricted building work themselves or be helped out by close friends and family. If they employ a tradesperson to help them carry out restricted building work, that tradesperson must be licensed.


Can a DIYer employ family and friends?

A condition of the exemption will be that people who help you to carry out restricted building work must be “a close friend or relative”. DIYers who carry out restricted building work will be accountable for that work so it is unlikely that you would want assorted friends and relatives to help out unless you were totally satisfied with their competence.


How will restricted building work affect a landlord wanting to work on his properties?

Most of the work landlords do on their property will not be affected because their work is effectively DIY work and generally involves work that either does not require a consent or will not be restricted building work.
The requirements would only apply if the landlord was doing major work such as adding a room.


The Licensed Building Practitioners scheme

Who has to get licensed?

The Licensed Building Practitioner scheme is voluntary. Being licensed is a personal and business choice for people with the skills and experience to meet the relevant licensing class standards.
However, from March 2012, work defined as restricted building work will only be able to be carried out or supervised by licensed building practitioners.
If a building practitioner is not licensed by then, “restricted” aspects of building work on homes and small-to-medium sized apartment buildings will have to be carried out or supervised by someone who is licensed.


How many licensed building practitioners are you aiming for?

Close to 20,000 building practitioners are expected to be licensed by 2012. This will enable restricted building work to be implemented.


How does a tradesperson become licensed?

Application packs for each of the 13 licensing classes are available by calling the Department of Building and Housing on 0800 60 60 50, or by visiting the Department’s web site at
Applicants need to specify which class(es) they are applying for so that they get the right application pack. A booklet is also available to help applicants select the most appropriate class(es) to apply for.
Application packs contain a generic application form and an application form for the specific class the applicant is seeking. Accompanying guidance notes are included to help applicants fill out the forms.
Building practitioners can apply to be licensed in more than one class, but must be able to show that they can meet the standard of competence of each class they apply for.


Do you have to be qualified to become licensed?

No. The scheme is competency-based, and a number of people without formal qualifications have already been assessed as competent and been granted licensing.
Tradespeople who don’t hold formal qualifications have nothing to fear from licensing. The assessment process means competent builders and tradespeople with a good track record can have their skills and knowledge formally recognised, whether they are trade-qualified or not.

Applicants must provide examples of projects they have worked on. They are required to answer questions about these projects and provide referees who can confirm what they did and how they performed.
An industry-trained assessor makes a recommendation to grant licensing based on the evidence provided with the application and their discussions with the referees and the applicant.

And for those with a good track record and who are trade qualified, it is proposed to make getting assessed and licensed more straightforward, faster and cheaper.
Even if these proposals go ahead, applicants who are not trade-qualified will still be able to have their competency assessed based on their track record, project examples and referee recommendations.


What will this scheme cost tradespeople who want to be licensed?

Licensing costs for all classes include:
• a one-off application fee of $80,
• a one-off assessment fee, and
• an annual administration fee of $170.

Licensing assessment costs between $275 and $330 for the Site and Trade licensing classes, provided the application can be desktop-assessed based on the material supplied.
Assessment for the Design classes costs between $760 and $990 because all assessment requires a face-to-face meeting.


How will licensing lead to LBPs signing off on their jobs?

LBPs will be required to issue a memorandum recording that they carried out or supervised restricted building work on a project.
The memorandum issued by Design LBPs will state that the building consent plans and specifications will comply with the building code. The memorandum issued by Trade LBPs will record what restricted building work the Trade LBP carried out or supervised.
The memorandum will be held on the council files so that there is a record of work carried out or supervised by LBPs.


What penalties are there if a licensed building practitioner does a bad job?

Complaints about licensed building practitioners may be made to the government-appointed Building Practitioners Board, which has the power to:
• cancel a practitioner’s licence,
• suspend a licence for up to 12 months,

• restrict the type of work the practitioner may carry out or supervise,
• order a censure,
• order training as specified in the censure, and
• fine the practitioner up to $10,000.


What penalties are there if an unlicensed builder does restricted building work?

Once restricted building work takes effect, a person who carries out restricted building work without holding the appropriate licensing class, and who works without supervision from a licensed person, may be fined up to $20,000.
This will not apply to DIYers who claim an exemption from restricted building work requirements.


Why not require all work needing a consent to be defined as restricted building work?

A significant portion of building work is low risk or is already effectively managed through commercial contractual arrangements. Defining all work as restricted was not preferred because it would impose additional costs on building practitioners and society at large, without providing additional benefits.


Why has it taken so long to get to this point, given that licensing was provided for by the Building Act 2004?


The licensing scheme has been operating as a voluntary “quality-mark” scheme since November 2007.
It has taken longer to complete the policy detail for restricted building work and an exemption for owner-builders than was first anticipated when the Building Act 2004 was being developed.

However, the policy framework for the scheme is now complete, which provides certainty for the construction sector going forward. March 2012 is a realistic time frame to ensure sufficient numbers of practitioners are licensed.


How will you improve dispute mechanisms for consumers? Do you envisage a tribunal like the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal?

The Building Act Review will look at a range of options, including what other countries do. For example, Victoria, Australia, has a disputes resolution service that sorts out disputes between builders and consumers relatively informally. It also has a dedicated tribunal that rules on serious building disputes.


Won’t the DIY restriction increase the price of rental accommodation if investors have to employ builders to do the same work they could do cheaper?

Most DIY work will not be affected by restricted building work requirements. Like any DIYer, a property investor would only have to engage a licensed building practitioner if they were doing major work such as adding a new room.


Couldn’t builders pretend to be DIYers and get around licensing?

Anyone claiming the exemption that will be available to DIYers will be required to make a statutory declaration that they meet the conditions of the exemption. These conditions are that they:
• are an individual,
• have a legal, beneficial or equitable interest in the property,
• live or intend to live in the property (this includes a bach or holiday home), and
• will carry out the work themselves or with a close friend or relative.

Under the Building Act a person may be fined up to $5000 for supplying false or misleading information.