When you don’t need a building consent

Renovations don’t always need a building consent, and not having to apply for a consent can save a lot of time and money.

The key document that sets out what building work doesn’t need a consent is Schedule 1 of the Building Act 2004.

It pays to know the rules – the maximum penalty for building, altering, demolishing or removing buildings without a building consent is $200,000! 

Schedule 1 has 3 parts:

  • Part 1: Exempted building work. This includes general maintenance, repair and replacement work (exemption 1), small structures (exemptions 3–6), repair or replacement of an outbuilding (exemption 7), smaller additions and alterations (exemptions 8–19), other structures (exemptions 20–28) and demolition (exemptions 30 and 31). It includes a council’s discretion to exempt any building work (exemption 2).
  • Part 2: Sanitary plumbing and drainlaying carried out by people authorised under Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Act 2006. The work specifically listed does not need a consent if carried out by an authorised person, such as a registered certifying plumber and drainlayer. You can check a plumber’s status on the online public register of plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers here.
  • Part 3: Building work for which design is carried out or reviewed by a chartered professional engineer. These engineers must be registered with the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ). You can check an engineer’s status on the IPENZ online public register here.

Even if building work does not require a building consent, all building work must comply with the Building Code. A building’s level of compliance with the Building Code must not be adversely affected once the exempt building work is completed.

Work that doesn’t need consent

The following are some examples of repair and renovation work that does not require a building consent:

  • house maintenance (such as replacing a length of weatherboard)
  • repair or replacement of an existing one-storey privately-owned shed (provided that the repair or replacement meets certain conditions)
  • replacing a roof cladding that has lasted more than 15 years with the same type of material
  • work on an internal wall (including the construction, alteration or removal of an internal doorway) provided structural stability is not reduced and the wall is not masonry
  • removal of a building element such as an unsound chimney. This exemption is limited to any building up to 3 storeys high as long as the removal does not affect the primary structure, any specified system or any fire separation (which includes firewalls protecting other property). Any necessary repair work – for example, making good the gaps left in a roof after chimney removal – can also be done without a consent.
  • a deck from which it is not possible for a person to fall more than 1.5 m even if the deck collapses
  • closing in an existing veranda or patio to provide an enclosed porch or for construction of a conservatory with a floor area not exceeding 5 m2
  • installation, replacement or removal of a window (including a roof window) or an exterior doorway, provided structural stability is unchanged and the replacement is not to address a weathertightness or durability failure within the specified minimum durability period required by the Building Code.

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More help

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has published a guide, Building work that does not require a building consent. The guide gives plenty of examples of where exemptions could apply and where consent is still required. You can download this here.

Talking to your local building consent authority (BCA) is also a good idea. If the scope of what you are planning is slightly beyond an exemption listed in Schedule 1, for example, the BCA has discretion as to whether or not it will require a building consent.