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 Engineering New Zealand. You can check an engineer’s status on the public register here.

Even if building work does not require a building consent, all building work must meet or exceed the minimum requirement in 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 and repair, such as replacing a length of weatherboard, provided that the replacement is in the same position and a comparable material is used. The comparable materials or elements used for the replacement must give at least the same or better performance as the originals
  • 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 a comparable type of material. An example could be replacing old pressed metal tile roofing with new long-run corrugated steel or new metal tiles
  • 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.

There is an exception to these exemptions to consent requirements, however, and it is to do with premature failure of a building element or material. Where something hasn’t met its required durability under the Building Code, then replacement – even with a comparable material – requires a building consent. The requirements are set out in Building Code clause B2 Durability. If there has been a failure in any of the following requirements, a building consent is required:

  • The life of the building (but not less than 50 years) for:
    – structural elements like floors, walls, bracing or structural fixings
    – items difficult to access or replace
    – building elements where failure would go undetected during normal maintenance of the building.
  • Not less than 15 years for:
    – moderately difficult to replace or access building elements, including the wall and roof claddings, exposed plumbing in subfloors and inbuilt chimneys and flues
    – building elements where failure would go undetected during normal use but would be detected during normal maintenance, like wall claddings, exterior doors/windows.
  • Not less than 5 years for:
    – easy to replace building elements, including services and linings and renewable protective coatings
    – building elements where failure would be easily detected during normal use, like exterior gutters and surface-mounted plumbing fixtures (taps).

A building consent is also required if the element being replaced substantially contributes to the structural behaviour or fire safety of a building, is a specified system, or has failed its durability requirement.

 

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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.

The Ministry has also launched a website to help you work out if you need a building consent. The website currently covers the most common exemptions; more will be added in future.

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.

The details on this page apply to building consents. Some building projects may not require a building consent but still require a resource consent.