August 18 2015

Doing Up Your House?

Make sure you know what renovations need a building consent.

If you’re looking at renovating your house, you should be aware that a building consent may be needed for more work than you think. Replacing your bathroom with ‘like for like’ is not as simple as that as many people don’t realise a building consent is required for wet rooms and tiled showers. Although you may be happy with unconsented work, it may end up costing you thousands of dollars when it comes time to sell your property.

New Zealanders have always had a ‘DIY’ mentality when it comes to renovating their own homes. DIY has become increasingly popular due the current buoyant property market and, of course, TV shows that encourage renovation such as ‘The Block’. When planning the renovations, one of the last things people turn their minds to is the need for building consents, but we believe that should be one of the first.

Building consents

The building consent process ensures the job is done in line with industry standards, meaning the work is safe; it also minimises the risk of future issues. For proposed building work that’s straightforward the building consent process is a simple one, and it’s something your local council will be happy to talk you through.

While the Building Act 2004 provides a list of work that does not require a building consent, it’s always best to check with your local council. Under the Act, a building consent is not required when an authorised person (such as a registered plumber or drain layer) uses a comparable component in the same position as the old unit. What many people don’t realise is that this exception of replacing a vanity, toilet, shower or bath in the same position without the need to apply for a building consent does not extend to replacing a shower tray and liner with a tiled ‘wet area’. This is partly due to the significant waterproofing that’s needed to ensure there are no future water issues.

What is the risk?

Dealing with any wet areas is always a concern as problems may only become evident when it’s too late. Renovating the bathroom is an area that can add real value to your home, so it pays to do it properly – and with a building consent.

Even if there are no problems with work carried out without a building consent, there may be issues when it comes to selling your property. We have seen a number of house sales fall through, or the purchase price decreased at the very least, due to the lack of building consents.

The standard Agreement for Sale and Purchase provides a warranty by the vendor that, where the vendor has done or caused or permitted work to be done on the property, that any works:

  1. Had a permit, resource consent, or building consent required by law
  2. To the vendor’s knowledge, were completed in compliance with those permits or consents, and that
  3. Where appropriate, a code of compliance certificate was issued for those works.

If you give these warranties, but it turns out that you didn’t obtain a building consent for work such as the installation of a tiled shower, then you could open yourself up to claims from the purchaser, and it may cost you a lot of money to remedy.

It’s best to find out whether you need a building consent before you start the work, and not when it comes time to sell. If you think it’s too late already, we recommend at least applying to your local council for a certificate of acceptance, which can be issued for work that was done without a building consent.

Spending an extra few hundred dollars following the right processes now may end up saving you a lot more money and time in the future. If you have any questions regarding consents when you are selling or buying a home, you should talk to us as soon as possible.