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How to get unconsented building work legalised under the Building Act

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

Many home and business owners are confused about how to get unconsented building work legalised under the Building Act. Although this isn’t a service that we provide, we receive many questions about the process, so we created this guide to help clear up any confusion and point you in the right direction.

Almost every time you renovate or build something new on your property, you are required to get building consent from your local Council before starting. Failure to do so can result in fines and legal action.

Whether you have purchased property that has undergone work without consents or failed to get the correct consents yourself, there is an avenue to legalise this work.

In New Zealand, this involves applying for a Certificate of Acceptance (COA). Be warned, it is by no means a cheap or straight-forward process. COAs are more complicated, time-consuming and expensive than applying for a building consent in advance of work.

Let’s look at the process in a bit more detail.

What is a COA?

A COA is a document from Council verifying that already completed building work is in compliance with the current Building Codes.

Only building work that took place after 1 July 1992 is eligible for a COA. It is important to note that even if the work was undertaken a decade ago, it must meet the building codes at the time you apply for a COA, not the codes as they were at the time of construction.

A COA can also retrospectively certify work that had to be carried out urgently - without time to apply for consent - for public health and safety reasons.

For building work carried out before 1 July 1992, you will need a safe and sanitary report, which can be prepared by a building consultant or engineer. This report doesn’t actually approve any work, it simply states whether the building is safe or not.

How do I apply for a COA?

Your local Council needs to see a thorough report outlining all the work that was done and explaining exactly how it complies with various building code clauses. This is way beyond the average Kiwi, so we recommend enlisting the services of a qualified person with a solid understanding of inspections and building codes - such as a building surveyor, architect, or a member of the NZ Institute of Building Surveyors.

A COA can only be provided if the work can be physically inspected by the Council.

Within Auckland, you must attend a COA pre-application meeting to examine the work in question and figure out whether the work does in fact need resource and/or building consent and whether a COA is likely to be approved.

You will need the following documents to apply:

  • building report/s,

  • any related certificates,

  • Plans and specifications outlining the nature of the building works that can help prove compliance with the Building Code - including photos.

You can apply online, by post, or deliver your application in person to your local council.

How long will it take and what is involved?

The process is slated to take 20 days, but the Council can hit the pause button if they need additional information.

After you submit your application, council staff will inspect the work and write up their recommendations.

If you are lucky, you’ll get the stamp of approval with no further issues.

You may only get partial approval. Your COA will be issued with a list of compliant and non-compliant aspects. If this is the case, you will receive a notice to fix the non-compliant work. Just to make it more complicated, you may have to apply for a building consent for the non-compliant repair work. The same goes for applications that get denied outright.

How much does it cost?

There’s no straight-forward set price for a COA - it all depends on the situation. There’s an application deposit fee to cover, but along with this, you have to pay all charges and fees that would have kicked in if the original owner had applied for building consent in advance of the work. It is best to check with your local council for an indication of cost.

As you can see, it is possible to get unconsented building work legalised under the Building Act, but it can be quite a process. That is why we would recommend seeking advice on the project before undertaking any building work. That way, you can apply for the relevant building consents beforehand, making the process a lot smoother.

Retrospective resource consent

Don’t forget, that illegal works may also require resource consent. If you have some illegal work on your property that you’re worried about, get in touch with us here at Planning Plus and we will be able to steer you in the right direction.

Disclaimer As with all our blogs, the information detailed here is general in nature and meant as a preliminary guide only. This should not be substituted for your own investigations or use of your own professional’s. Planning Plus is not liable for any errors or omissions.

© Planning Plus Ltd 2023

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