There have been recent changes to the Building Act (the Act) that affect the work of building practitioners and the home handyman.
The changes are in the Building Amendment Act 2013 that became law on November 28, 2013. Some changes came into force immediately and some will come into effect this year.
They include changes to the types of work that do not require building consent. More low-risk work is exempt from building consent, and there are limits on potentially high-risk work.
You will be able to demolish a detached building that is not more than three storeys high without building consent. Previously, you could only do this if the building was damaged.
This means, for example, that an old, single-storey detached bach could be demolished to make way for a new dream home without applying for building consent. The new dream home will require building consent though!
It’s also possible to remove a potential earthquake hazard without building consent, such as the upper part of a brick chimney that is protruding above the roof.
Some existing outbuildings, such as carports, garages, greenhouses and sheds can be repaired and replaced without building consent, whether they are damaged or not.
The building work may be exempt from building consent if the new outbuilding is the same size or smaller than the original, and is on the same footprint and is a comparable outbuilding to the original.
You can’t, for example, replace a carport with a garage without building consent, nor can you shift a shed to another part of your property and add an extension without building consent.
The do’s and don’ts of exempt building work are listed in Schedule 1 of the Act, which has been reformatted to make it easier to navigate.
Schedule 1 has been split into three parts. The first part contains building work that anyone can do (including the home handyman). The second part deals with sanitary plumbing and drainlaying, which must be carried out by people authorised under the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Act. The third part covers building work which requires input from a chartered professional engineer.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE’s) guidance document will contain examples of the kind of work that is exempt, and examples of work that requires building consent.
Seek good advice
The guidance also advises readers to seek good advice on any building work before they start. It reminds readers that all building work must comply with the Building Code, and that any alterations or additions to an existing building must not adversely affect the building’s compliance with the Building Code.
The guidance will be published soon. In the meantime, refer to Schedule 1 of the Act for details of work that can be done without building consent.
Other immediate changes to the Act include:
• higher penalties for work done without the proper consent,
• councils have more powers to restrict entry to buildings that are near other dangerous buildings,
• the MBIE has more power to hold building consent authorities to account, and
• there have been changes to the way dams are defined and measured.
Changes that come into effect later this year include new regulations to protect consumers who are building a house or making major renovations to their home.
Building practitioners will have to give consumers information about their skills, qualifications, licensing status and business record when they are engaged to build a house or extension.
Practitioners will have to provide written contracts for work over a certain sum, and can be fined if they don’t comply with the law.
There will be a 12-month “defect repair period” when building practitioners will have to fix any defects they have been told about without question or additional charge.
The MBIE will develop the regulations over the coming months. For more details about the Building Amendment Act 2013 go to www.dbh.govt.nz/building-amendment-act-2013.
You can download a fact sheet or read the key information on the web.