Work nears completion – there are a few further steps to be taken before signing off the project. Making sure everything is finished and final inspections are done.
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The end of the project may not be the occasion you imagined. The builder will be making arrangements to start the next job and may start transferring staff and equipment before your job is completely finished, leaving the remaining subcontractors to finish off unsupervised.
You can protect against this by having a clause in the contract that the main contractor (or their representative) maintains a permanent presence on the site until actual completion or handover. Your contract needs to define what constitutes the end of the project, or practical completion.
If your architect or designer is managing the project, the same problem can arise – they may put their efforts into their latest project and have less time to oversee and tidy up the loose ends at yours. Conversely they may find themselves left to tidy up the loose ends neglected by the main contractor.
One way to ensure completion, and to keep the project rolling, is to have a contract that requires you to pay only when milestones are reached.
Actual, or practical completion of the project, relates to when everything in the contract is completed. Therefore signing-off is a contractual matter and is nothing to do with the BCA's final inspections. The 10-year period to make legal claims against those involved in designing and building the house begins once the work is signed off as being completed (not when a code compliance certificate is issued).
Building work is finished, but there are three final things to consider:
You, as the owner, should advise the BCA when work is completed and apply for a code compliance certificate (CCC), (although in reality this will often be delegated to your builder or project manager). The BCA will then make a final inspection and issue you with a CCC if satisfied on reasonable grounds that the completed work complies with your building consent.
If the inspector is not satisfied, you will be issued with a notice to fix, which lists what items must be corrected before a CCC can be granted. You are legally required to make sure the items on the notice are rectified and advise the council when everything is done. You may have to go back to your contract with your builder and see who is responsible for the work that needs fixing. The council will inspect and consider whether or not a CCC can be issued.
There is considerable emphasis on getting a CCC under the 2004 Building Act. There are several significant advantages in doing so.
You must apply for a CCC at the end of the job. If you do not do this within 2 years of the grant of the consent, your BCA should contact you to follow up on the work.
It is worth noting that there are a large number of houses built since CCCs were introduced in 1991 that don’t have one.
If you have a cable car you will be issued with a compliance schedule at the time your CCC is issued. This requires you to maintain the cable car and provide the council with an annual building warrant of fitness.
If you don’t accept that the BCA had reasonable grounds for not issuing a CCC, you can apply to the Department of Building and Housing (DBH) for a binding ruling on technical matters of dispute, known as a Determination.
It’s a good idea, when the builder is ready to hand over the keys, to walk through the new house, initially by yourself, and then with the builder. You should have been taking an active role in monitoring progress and already be familiar with the building work, including defects. You may have already discussed these with your builder.
In the final walk through carefully note, and possibly photograph, surfaces of counters, floors, walls, fixtures and fittings. Record any damage at the same time so that there can be no dispute later about whether the chipped bench-top was caused by the builder or the movers.
Use the walk through as an opportunity to learn about the features you need to operate, such as the woodburner or ventilation systems. The instruction booklets and warranties should be made available to you for each of the appliances.
Nicola had a substantial extension built on to her house. In her contract with the main contractor, she had an agreed payment plan that had certain ‘milestones’ attached.
She paid 20% deposit, the next 20% when the shell was completed and weather tight, and further percentages for each stage. There were major delays caused by the subcontractors but the builder was very motivated to chase them up as his payment depended on the milestones being completed.
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