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Building without consent

What happens if you don't get building consent. We look at the options.

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Legal obligations

You have a legal obligation to comply with the Building Act. In particular, you must not start work before obtaining a building consent. If you do not comply with this requirement, you will be committing an offence under the 2004 Act and may be liable for a fine of up to $100,000, plus up to $10,000 for each day the offence continues.

The BCA could possibly make you pull something down or make changes if it was built or altered without a building consent, but they do have some discretion here. They will look at whether it is dangerous or unsanitary (i.e. likely to cause injury, death or be offensive to people or likely to damage other property) before deciding.

Certificate of Acceptance

Under the Building Act 2004 there is a way to partially-legitimise unconsented building work. In exceptional circumstances a council may issue a certificate of acceptance if it is satisfied on reasonable grounds that, insofar as it was able to ascertain, the building complies with the Building Code. A certificate of acceptance will certify only the part of the building work that the council could inspect.

Certificates of acceptance may also be issued where building work had to be carried out urgently for health and safety reasons and there wasn’t time to get a building consent, and where a private Building Consent Authority can no longer complete certification of the building for any reason.

Houses built earlier than 1991

If you are living in an older house which was built before the Building Act 1991 came into force, the house would have been built before the Building Code regime and will not have any consents as we understand them today. Under the pre-1991 regime, building permits were issued for building work and evidence of these should be on the Land Information Memorandum (but there was no such thing as a code compliance certificate).

If you decide to do some alterations to your older house, you will need to get a building consent and the alteration work will have to meet the current Building Code performance levels as nearly as possible.

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