New Zealand’s Building Act 2004 (“Act”) impacts on vendors selling properties on which building work has been undertaken. Purchasers now often request evidence of compliance with the Act. Parry Field Lawyers provide legal advice on a range of property matters including buying and selling property.
One of the fundamental principles of the Act is that all building works must comply with the building code. Compliance with the building code is mandatory regardless of whether or not a building consent is required for the work. Even for minor building projects, householders need to check whether or not the building code is relevant and if it is, must ensure that the building work complies with the requirements of the code.
Evidence of Compliance
The most common way a building owner may provide evidence that work complies with the building code is by obtaining and being able to provide the purchaser with a Code Compliance Certificate (“CCC”). A CCC is issued where a building consent is applied for before building work is commenced. The CCC effectively provides that the consent authority is satisfied on reasonable grounds that the building work complies with the building consent. It is the building consent that is crucial in ensuring that the performance standards set out in the building code are met by the finished building product.
A building consent will lapse if work does not commence within 12 months of the date of issue. However, it appears that commencement of work within the first 12 months after the building consent is issued preserves the consent indefinitely.
Certificate of Acceptance
Sometimes a purchaser will ascertain that building work for which a building consent and CCC should have been issued, has not been completed in accordance with those requirements. The Act provides that in that situation a building consent authority can issue a certificate of acceptance.
A certificate of acceptance certifies, to the best of the building consent authority’s knowledge and on reasonable grounds, that, as far as it could ascertain, the building work complies with the building code.
Obviously this certificate conveys a far lower degree of quality assurance than a building consent or CCC. It replaces what was previously referred to as a “safe and sanitary” letter which followed an inspection by the Council certifying to the effect that the building was deemed to be neither unsafe nor unsanitary.
Building Warrant of Fitness
Another matter which may require consideration when purchasing a commercial building is whether or not a building warrant of fitness is required and is up to date. If a building contains systems or services that require ongoing maintenance in order to function at the level demanded by the building code, a compliance schedule must be established in regard to those systems to ensure that maintenance is routinely carried out. The compliance schedule sets out the inspection, maintenance and reporting procedures required to ensure that those systems meet performance standards. The building warrant of fitness confirms that the inspection, maintenance and reporting procedures set out in the schedule have been complied with for the foregoing 12 months. There are significant fines for a building owner who fails to obtain a compliance schedule or to display an up to date building warrant of fitness.