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SEPTEMBER 2015

Buyers need to check for Unconsented Additions

One of the steps any property buyer should take is to check to see if the buildings and additions on the property were properly permitted or consented by the local council. And while it may not dissuade you from buying a property, buyers need to be aware that making any unpermitted or unconsented work compliant may not be that straightforward.

From 1 July 2015, Auckland Council has introduced a new policy that it is applying across the whole of the Auckland region. Previously, the process for rectifying these unconsented works differed across the Auckland region – a legacy of the processes employed by the various councils prior to the amalgamation into Auckland Council.

If a property has any buildings, or additions and alterations to buildings, which were not permitted or consented at the time they were built, a property owner can apply to the Council to have a Certificate of Acceptance issued for the work in question. However, that Certificate of Acceptance for the unauthorised work or alterations must meet the current New Zealand Building Code – not the Building Code at the time of construction. This is where property owners can be caught out. What may have been complied with the building standards twenty years ago, may not comply with today’s building standards. Councils will not issue a Certificate of Compliance for a building or an alteration or addition simply because the work complied with the Building Code ten or twenty years ago.

The owner will need to attend a pre-application meeting with the Council’s Building Control inspectors where as much information about the works as possible needs to be produced and considered. Owners should be aware that the Council could issue infringement fees for these unpermitted or unconsented works, as well as issuing a notice to remove the works from the property. Obtaining a Certificate of Acceptance is by no means a certainty – and in fact you may find the outcome is completely the opposite to what you are seeking, and the Council issues you a notice to demolish the unauthorised works.

As the Auckland Council have said: “Aucklanders buying new homes with unconsented decks or other additions should not assume they won’t have to remove it”.

To avoid running into such problems, we recommend buyers get a LIM report, which will contain records of all permits, and consents that have been issued for the property. If you have doubt or concern over whether or not a structure on a property is consented, or needs a consent, you should make enquiries from the current owners or from the local council before signing, or include an appropriately-worded condition in the agreement for sale and purchase.