We have a lot of clients coming to us with a building project where the contractor or consultant proposes using a standard form contract. It can be confusing as to which one of these documents is best to use in different situations.

This is because different industry bodies have developed their own forms of standard contract. Sometimes having too many options means that there is confusion over the best one to use. In this article we have described the most common form of construction contracts and building contracts and given a comment about when they are most appropriate to be used. In the second part we have also set out what some of the key issues are that need to be considered every time (no matter what contract is used as a base).


Which form of building or construction contract?

Below we have set out the most common standard forms of contract. The references are to the most recent forms of each which is an important point to note because sometimes you may be given an earlier version. Generally the latest issued copy has been done for a reason and it addresses some inadequacy in an earlier iteration. So closely check what year the version you are asked to sign was issued.

  • NZS3910: 2013: This is one of the most commonly used construction contracts and is generally considered to be quite a “fair” standard form which is used for building and civil engineering construction.
  • NZIA: SCC1: 2014 The New Zealand Institute of Architects have produced this standard form which has a leaning towards protection of the architect involved in the project.
  • BuildRight BCC: 2016: This is a free document intended for use when constructing residential buildings in New Zealand.  It can be requested on the Build Safe website.  Note that it includes automatic provisions using their retention trust fund.
  • BuildRight BCS: 2016: As above, but this is for sub contract situations.
  • IPENZ and FIDIC: These two engineering bodies (the New Zealand Institution of Professional Engineers and the International Federation of Consulting Engineers) publish standard form documents which tend to include provisions that protect engineers.
  • NEC3: A suite of contracts that can be used for building projects but mainly used for large scale construction projects.
  • RBC1: 2016 (NEW BUILD): Prepared for use by Registered Master Builders it is available to them for use on building contracts.

In addition to those set out above their can be bespoke / one off forms which particular companies many propose be used.  The important point here is that there are a variety of options when it comes to a building contract or construction contract.  Knowing what the options are is a good first step to being able to decide which one would be best for your project.

Key issues to consider in your building or construction contract

There are a number of other practical points that should be covered in your agreement.  Even if there is a standard position in one of the contracts above it should be read and ensure that you are comfortable with it.  Key matters to consider include:

Indemnities: These are often “high risk” clauses, because they can trigger a liability to pay a sum of money without the party relying on the indemnity even needing to prove that the other party caused, or contributed to, a loss.  It is important to be clear about what exactly will trigger an indemnity, who it will cover and whether it is reasonable in the circumstances to require one at all.

  • Limitation of liability and exclusion clauses: These are commonly included and essentially involve one party trying to get out of, or limit, their liability.  Consider to what extent they should apply.
  • Insurance: The insurance position of each party should be clearly understood to ensure there is adequate insurance cover.
  • Construction Contract Act: If this applies then certain provisions will be included in agreements eg default provisions relating to payment.
  • Price and payments: How much is paid and when.  This may involve setting out milestone and deliverables.
  • Variations: How will these be requested and priced needs to be set out clearly and understood.
  • Disputes: How will these be handled if they arise.
  • Reporting: What reports are required and when – this will be important to be able to monitor progress of the project.
  • Health and safety: Who is responsible for what and who is a PCBU at the work site.  This is a hot topic these days and should be thought through in detail.
  • Sub contracting: To what extent will this be done, and who is responsible for this.  This is about ensuring clarity about who will actually do the work.
  • Security: Many contracts contain an agreement to mortgage which could result (in the event of non-payment, or even in a dispute over payment) in a caveat being lodged against the title to your property.
  • Termination: Ability to terminate in which circumstances and what happens if that occurs.

Building contractors must give consumers a Checklist and a Disclosure Statement published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment prior to signing a building contract for all residential building work valued over $30,000.00 (including GST), or where the consumer asks for the information irrespective of the value of the building work.


This article is not a substitute for legal advice and you should talk to a lawyer about your specific situation. Please contact Tim Rankin at Parry Field Lawyers (348-8480) timrankin@parryfield.com

Any construction or building project will involve a number of people to make it a success. These could include architects, engineers, surveyors, contractors and landscapers. It is important to get the early engagement right on a project and this will generally take the form of a consultancy agreement.

The legal arrangement could be directly between the person who wants to develop the project or they could appoint someone who then engages with the different consultants. Duties will be owed by those consultants to the client and that is why the consultancy agreement is critical because that is where these duties will mainly (but not exclusively) be set out (duties are also inferred by statue and common law).

Generally standard form consultant agreements are drafted by bodies that will be looking out for their member base. Examples are the Institute of Professional Engineers of New Zealand and the New Zealand Institute of Architects. Such documents need to be checked closely and the exclusions and limitations analysed thoroughly to check what they say eg that limits of liability are not set too low.

Key issues for Consultancy Agreements

Some of the key issues to be considering when looking at a consultancy agreement are:

Standard of care: The standard of care in the consultancy agreement will generally be based on market practice. An example of this is in the Conditions of Contract for Consultancy Services 2009 (published by the Institute of Professional Engineers New Zealand Inc.) which says:

In providing the Services, the Consultant must use the degree of skill, care and diligence reasonably expected of a professional consultant providing services similar to the Services.

Scope of services: the services to be provided should be within the expertise of the consultant. When drafting the contract it is important to check if there is a gap between what the consultant is to do (to the standard of care mentioned above) and what others in the project will do. Clear discussions over who exactly does what is very important at the early stage.

Design warranties: These should be included where the design risk is high – eg bespoke buildings. Design warranties may help focus the parties on the key risks and ensure the contractor stands behind it’s work. It may be that a discussion is also needed with the contractor about what insurance it has in place (or needs to take out) so that there is insurance if a design warranty is breached.

Indemnity: These are often the subject of much discussion because a consultant will not want to give indemnities. They are a potential liability where the consultant will have to pay if something in particular happens – and continue to pay where there is ongoing loss. It is important to be clear about what exactly will trigger an indemnity, who it will cover and how much the indemnity will be for. There are a variety of indemnities which may be used and those should be discussed with your lawyer in advance to find the best combination that works in the particular situation.

Limitation of liability and exclusion clauses: These are commonly included and essentially involve one party trying to get out of, or limit, it’s liability. Wording used should be clear, particularly if trying to exclude “consequential” losses. For example, “consequential” may not include loss of profit which may be considered a direct loss. So the wording used will be critical and should be clear.

Insurance: Consultants may try to have their liability linked to their ability to recover funds under an insurance policy. However, that means there is an extra step involved and it may even be possible that the insurance does not respond because it has not yet been triggered by an actual legal liability. The insurance position of the consultant should be clearly understood.

Construction Contract Act: From 1 September 2016 the definition of “construction work” has been expanded and applies to many consultancy agreements eg design, engineering and quantity surveying. This means that certain provisions will be included in Consultancy Agreements eg default provisions relating to payment.

Other issues: Other practical points to be covered in a consultancy agreement are (very briefly):

  • Key people: specify if a particular person is to be involved;
  • Price and payments: how much is paid and when? This may involve setting out milestone and deliverables and a design program;
  • IP: who owns what?;
  • Novation: ability to novate or assign eg if you later want to novate to a contractor;
  • Variations: how will these be requested and priced?;
  • Disputes: how will these be handled?;
  • Reporting: What reports are required and when?;
  • Health and safety: Who is responsible for what and who is a PCBU?;
  • Sub contracting: To what extent will this be done, and who is responsible for this?;
  • and Termination: Ability to terminate and what happens then?

In New Zealand consultants will often put forward a set of the industry standard terms and say “this is non-negotiable” – or words to that effect. These agreements are often signed before a lawyer is even involved. This is in contrast to the situation overseas where consultancy agreements are often drafted for particular projects to address the unique set of circumstances of an individual situation.

We hope these comments help you as you think through the content of your consultancy agreement. We would be happy to discuss your specific situation in detail with you.

Are you in the business of constructing property? Maybe instead your own property needs to be repaired, renovated or rebuilt? Whatever the scenario, ensuring you have adequate insurance in place to cover the risks allocated under your construction contract is vital.

Construction is booming in Canterbury, both new builds and repairs. Construction contracts allocate risk between owners, contractors, sub-contractors (and earthquake insurers) during construction, and beyond. Do you understand what risks the parties in the construction process, including you, have taken on and is there adequate insurance in place to cover those risks?

This article looks at these issues and answers some of your key questions in respect of them.

1. What kind of risks do I need to be aware of?

For Homeowners/the owner

  • Your existing home/building being damaged by your contractor;
  • Your existing home/building being damaged by sub-contractors;
  • New building work being damaged by your contractor or sub-contractor;
  • New and old building work being damaged by you;
  • New and old building work being damaged by an insurable event (accident, third party, natural disaster);
  • Latent defects in the building work – design flaws, faulty workmanship;
  • Damage to plant, machinery, your own materials and vehicles;
  • Being indirectly liable for other people’s faults

For Contractors

  • The Existing structure being damaged by the negligence of self or sub-contractors
  • The Contract works being damaged by the negligence of self or sub-contractors
  • Existing and contract works being damaged by accident, third parties and natural disasters
  • Consequential loss resulting from damage – delay, cost of rescheduling, need to redo undamaged work to fix damage
  • Continuing liability beyond project completion date for latent defects by self and sub-contractors
  • Damage to or loss of plant, materials, machinery or vehicles owned by the principal, you and sub-contractors
  • Damage to third parties or their property: trespass to land, nuisance, liability for fire, negligence, breach of statutory duty
  • Health and Safety and other statutory obligations (e.g. Consumer Guarantees Act, Fair Trading Act, Building Act and Resource Management Act).
  • Liability to your employees.

2. How do I know what risks I’m actually taking on?

If you have a building contract, this is the first place to start. Have you checked it to see what risks you are responsible for? Even where one of the New Zealand Standard contracts (i.e. NZS 3910) is used, the Standards can vary as to what risks are covered and by who.

If you are unsure of what your risks are, take professional advice on your build contract.

Where there is no building contract or the contract makes no provision for a risk, the basic rule is that the contractor bears the risk in respect of permanent and temporary structures until completion, subject to a couple of exceptions such as damage by the homeowner/principal.

3. Do I have to insure against my risks?

No, not unless your building contract requires you to. You therefore also need to check to see who, if anyone, is responsible for insurance? Again, the New Zealand Standard contracts can vary as to what insurance is to be taken out and by whom.

However, even if the contract does not require you to take out insurance (or there is no build contract), you need to consider whether you can afford to cover your risks without insurance? If the worst case happens – a fire, natural disaster, leaky building – what would it mean for you and for the building project? Likewise, if you are homeowner/principal, consider the same if your contractor does not have adequate insurance.

4. I’m the owner, won’t my home/property insurance policy simply cover me?

No, most home/general property insurance policies do not cover construction risks. If your property is being repaired/altered, make sure you contact your insurer to let them know and to find out what you need to do to ensure the relevant risks are covered off.

5. Is it enough just to take out a general “All risk” insurance policy?

Not necessarily. The key question is whether your specific insurance cover actually covers the risks you have taken on and to what extent?

Does it adequately reflect your contractual obligations, the value of works, plant, materials, equipment etc? Does it cover additional costs, e.g. demolition of damaged structures, removal of debris, site preparation, professional fees, cost inflation etc?

For contractors, you need to focus on the risks you are responsible for and which, if they occur, may make it difficult for you to complete the work (i.e. financially or otherwise).

For the principal/homeowner, you need to focus on ensuring your responsibilities under the build contract are covered, as well as those taken on by the builder which may impact on completion of your build (even if those are to be insured by the builder).

Included within these checks is being aware of what risks are excluded under the build contract. For example, a contractor may limit its liability as to what works it is responsible for, the amount (i.e. a cap on liability), and the time period they are liable for. This means those risks pass to the homeowner/principal. Have you checked that any excluded risks are also covered by your insurance?

Again, if you are unsure, take professional advice. There is no point paying for an insurance policy which will not deliver when you need it to. It is better to know in advance what your policy will and will not cover in the event of a claim, than to find out later.

6. Are there any time limits on how long the policy covers me for?

Yes, Contract Works policies, for example, include a time limit as to when coverage stops. This is often the date of practical completion, use by the owner, Code Compliance or a set date.

Why is this important? Chiefly because there may be a period of time when certain risks are not insured, i.e. if there is a gap between the Contract Works policy ending and a new home insurance policy being taken out by the homeowner. Some insurance companies will not grant a new policy to the homeowner/principal until Code Compliance is obtained, which may be after the Contract works policy expires.

Has the policy also been extended to cover the maintenance period? Delays in completion may mean the policy expires before the work is finalised.

For Contractors who have professional indemnity insurance, have you checked how long your policy will remain in place? If it ends when the building works are complete and/or on the winding up of your business, you may not have cover for the possibility of future/ongoing claims in respect of the work.

7. What about the excess – who pays this in the event of a claim?

If it is you under the Contract, you need to check how much it is so you can factor this into your budget. If there is no contract or it is silent as to the excess, the general rule is that the party who takes out the insurance is responsible for the excess.

8. If a claim is made and my insurer pays out, what happens to the insurance proceeds?

Where your build contract obliges you to insure, there is an implied obligation to use any insurance pay out to fix the insured loss or damage. Some contracts also expressly state this. This again underlines the importance of ensuring any insurance cover is adequate otherwise your own funds may be needed to top up any shortfall to complete the work.

Who the funds are actually paid to depends on a number of things. For example, if the insurance policy is in the names of both the homeowner/principal and contractor, the proceeds can be paid to either party.

Correspondingly, if the principal/homeowner has a mortgage, the proceeds may be paid to the bank under the terms of the mortgage and the Property Law Act 2007. If that situation is relevant to you, have you checked with your bank whether they will re-advance the funds to enable completion of your building work?

9. Summary

Before you embark on a building project, make sure you know the risks you are taking on, your insurance obligations, and what your policy actually covers you for. Even if you are not obligated to take our insurance, consider – can I afford to complete this project without insurance if the worst case happens?

If are you are unsure of what your obligations are under your build contract or whether your insurance cover is adequate, take professional advice. Don’t leave it until a claim is made to find our whether your insurance cover adequately protects you or not.

If we can assist in any way with a building or insurance matter, please do not hesitate to contact us at insurance@parryfield.com.

When purchasing a property, it pays to investigate the history of the buildings on the land. If there are no records of building consents having been issued by the council, then at best the buildings may have been constructed without council approval and may not comply with the building code. At worst, they may be dangerous for use and occupation.


Background To The Building Consent Process

The Building Act 2004 (“the Act”) governs all building works in New Zealand. It states that such work must comply with the building code. The code is made up of regulations which prescribe the functional requirements for buildings and the performance criteria they must meet for their intended use.

Before undertaking building work, the owner of the property must obtain approval from a building consent authority. Usually, the building consent authority is the local council. Council approval for building work is known as a “building consent”.

During construction and once construction is complete, the council will inspect the work to ensure compliance with the conditions of the building consent and the building code. If the council approves the work, then it issues a code compliance certificate. It is an offence to carry out any work requiring a building consent if the work is not in accordance with the terms of the building consent. Also, subject to some exceptions, until such time as a code compliance certificate has been issued, it is an offence to occupy the building.

What Happens When Building Work Has Been Done Without A Building Consent?

Building consents cannot be issued retrospectively. However, if the work has been completed and a building consent was required but not obtained, then an application to the council for a “certificate of acceptance” may be made. This involves the council inspecting the work to determine if it complies with the building code. If it does, then it may issue a certificate of acceptance. However, such a certificate cannot be issued if the building work was carried out prior to 1992 as the building code was not in existence prior to that date.

It is not uncommon to come across properties where the buildings on the land have been constructed with a building permit or consent but the work has either never been completed, or if it has, the council has not approved it. If the work was carried out prior to 1 January 1993 and provided that the building is not “dangerous” or “unsanitary” as defined in the Act, then the council cannot take any action to require the owner to complete the work in accordance with the original building permit.

Make Sure Your Contract is Conditional on Approval of a LIM Report

The best way to check that there are no unauthorised buildings on a property is to obtain a Land Information Memorandum (known as a “LIM report”) before you buy it. This includes a summary of all records held by the council in relation to the property including details of building permits, consents, code compliance certificates and certificates of acceptance. To protect your position, any sale and purchase agreement you sign should be subject to approval of a LIM report for the property.

It is worth remembering that although the absence of permits or consents may not pose a problem while you live in the property, it may well become a problem once you decide to sell it. For that reason, a LIM report is money well spent. It could save you a great deal more at a later date.


This article is not a substitute for legal advice and you should talk to a lawyer about your specific situation. Please contact Tim Rankin at Parry Field Lawyers (348-8480) timrankin@parryfield.com


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.

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