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The Building Act 2004

The Building Act 2004 provides the framework for New Zealand’s building control system.

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A review of the Building Act was initiated in August 2009. This review is part of the Better Building Blueprint, a series of measures that will make it easier and cheaper to build good quality homes and buildings.

In the first phase of the review, the Department of Building and Housing (now a division within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) worked with representatives of the building and construction industry, local authorities, and home owners, to identify what could be done. They found that there have been much-needed improvements in the quality of building work since the Act was introduced in 2004, but the system was more costly than necessary and less efficient and effective than it could be.

During the second phase of the review the Department developed proposals to update the system. These are set out in the discussion document called Cost-effective quality: next generation building control in New Zealand.

New consumer protection measures developed by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) came into effect on 1 January 2015. The aim is to encourage a professional, no-surprises relationship between you and your builder and enable you to make informed decisions about building work on your home.

The Building Act 2004

The Building Act 2004 provides the framework for New Zealand’s building control system.

When reading the Building Act it is important to take account of the Building Amendment Act 2005 and any subsequent amendments.

The Building Act has five parts:
Part 1: The purpose and principles of the Building Act, together with an overview, and commencement dates for various provisions and definitions. These sections provide an important reference point for reading and interpreting the Building Act.

Part 2 (and Schedules 1 and 2): Matters relating to the Building Code and building work (for example, building consents).

Part 3: Sets out the functions, duties and powers of the chief executive of the Department of Building and Housing, territorial authorities, regional authorities, and building consent authorities. It also deals with the accreditation of building consent authorities and dam owners, and product certification.

Part 4 (and Schedule 3): Matters relating to the licensing and disciplining of building practitioners.

Part 5 (and Schedule 4): Miscellaneous matters including offences and criminal proceedings, implied terms of contracts, regulation-making powers, amendments to other enactments and the repeal of the Building Act 1991, and the transitional provisions from the Building Act 1991 to the Building Act 2004.

Implementation of the 2004 Act

There are three important features of the Act that homeowners need to be aware of.

Code compliance certificates
A building consent authority must issue a code compliance certificate (CCC) on work for which it issued a building consent if it is satisfied that the building work complies with the approved building consent. Under the 1991 Act, the issue of a code compliance certificate was based on building code compliance.

The building consent authority must decide whether to issue a CCC within 20 days of receiving an application from the owner. The owner should apply for a CCC as soon as practicable after the building work has been completed. Even without an application for a CCC the building consent authority must decide whether to issue a CCC within two years of granting building consent or any further period agreed between the owner and the building consent authority.

Certificates of acceptance
The Act introduced a new provision called a certificate of acceptance. People can apply to their councils for a certificate of acceptance for building work that was carried out without a building consent or that had to be carried out urgently; or where a building consent authority that is not a territorial authority granted the building consent but for whatever reason is unable to, or will not, issue a CCC. A certificate of acceptance states that, to the extent the council can ascertain, the work is compliant with the Building Code. Note: This does not limit the requirement that you must have a building consent before carrying out any building work.

Change of a building’s use
Where the use of a building changes to residential (from any other use), then the building must meet, as reasonably as is practicable, all Building Code requirements relating to residential buildings. An example would be converting a garage to a studio or a sleepout. You must advise your council if you are planning to use a building differently. Building owners can be fined up to $5,000 if they are found to have breached this requirement.

Building consent documentation
Under the Building Act 2004, building consent documentation takes on much greater importance. You need to talk to your designer or architect to ensure that you consider all the details and requirements. And keep in mind that changes from the consented plans during construction require you to apply for an amendment to your consent and could result in costly delays to your project.

At the end of your project, your CCC will be measured against the consent documentation. This is to improve the paper trail for the building work – both for your protection and that of future owners.

Licensed Building Practitioner (LBP) Scheme

The LBP scheme is one of the changes in the Building Act 2004 which aims to encourage better building design and construction.

This is to ensure the public can have confidence that licensed building practitioners working on their homes and buildings are competent, and that homes and buildings are designed and built right the first time.

Licensing promotes, recognises and supports professional skills and behaviour in the building industry. Over time, the emphasis on education and training, along with better career pathways, will increase. From 2015 it is proposed that licensing will be qualifications-based.

The LBP scheme is also competency based. This means competent builders and tradespeople with a good track record can have their skills and knowledge formally recognised.

All LBPs are listed on a public online register, along with details of their licence classes.

LBPs are accountable for their work via a complaints procedure. Anyone can complain to the Building Practitioners Board about an LBP.

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