Gambling with a Building Consent

Nobody likes red tape. Having to obtain a building consent for that small shed you are building or that little bit of earth work you are doing on the farm can seem like a disproportionate pain in the proverbial. In days gone past, it would have been common practice to charge ahead with the work on a “she’ll be right” basis.

But will “she be right”? Legally, the position is very clear:

  1. For unconsented works completed prior to 1993, unless the works are either dangerous or insanitary your Council will not take further action.
  2. For unconsented works completed post 1993 (so anything you build now) your Council can, at their discretion, require such works be pulled down.

In practice, of course, you may well take the view that the likelihood of your local Council coming charging on to your property, clipboard in hand, and demanding that you tear down a small unconsented shed is relatively low (and you may well be right). But before you roll the dice on that risk, it is becoming increasingly important to take a couple of other things into account. Firstly, the absence of a consent may well put any insurance pay-out you might have otherwise received at risk. You should certainly read your insurance policy very carefully before assuming that unconsented improvements will be covered. Secondly, our experience is that purchasers of farm properties are increasingly demanding that a vendor has obtained building consents and Code Compliance Certificates for all improvements built since 1993. In worst-case scenarios, (for the vendor) we have seen purchasers look to discount the entire value of an unconsented improvement from the purchase price they would have otherwise been willing to pay. A short cut now, in avoiding obtaining consent, can therefore become a significantly more expensive headache when you come to sell.

While we’re talking about consents, there are also some changes coming to the Resource Management Act (RMA) which will most likely loosen some requirements. While any reduction in red tape in this area will be welcomed by many landowners and agri business people, it’s another reminder that you need to keep up with changes to legal requirements.

As lawyers, we will advise you to get a building consent when one is required. As pragmatists however, we understand that some of you are going to continue to build without consent, no matter what anybody says and we simply suggest that you make that decision with your eyes wide open as to the potential legal and practical consequences.

For more information contact:

Geoff Caradus, Partner at Pitt & Moore

DDI: 03 545 6717

E: geoff.caradus@pittandmoore.co.nz

Click here for a printable version