Making the most of your existing house: Splitting it in two


We all know that house prices are getting out of reach for some, and more so for our children. We hear of parents wanting to help their kids out, often by allowing them to move back home to save money but also by providing some accommodation on their own land for the children. This could be a sleepout (take a look at last weeks blog for more information on this), a minor dwelling, subdivision or providing a self-contained area in the existing house. In this week’s blog we take a look at splitting your existing house into two and providing a self- contained area for someone else.

What do we mean?

Its all very well to build an extra sleepout or a minor dwelling, but what are your options if you already have a big house that lends itself to being split into two? This can be a more cost- effective option if you’re trying to help out your children or another family member. In these cases, splitting the dwelling into two may also be more acceptable to you; you’ll be living very close to another person/ family so you need to be sure you’re comfortable with that. This is different to a minor dwelling, where the other people would often be slightly separated from your living areas and you’d have more privacy.

Older houses from the 1970’s and 1980’s are especially useful in this regard, as they commonly have living and bedroom areas upstairs and a garage, rumpus room, hobby room etc downstairs; this area can lend itself to being self- contained. There are various ways you can do this in planning terms, and its sometimes a good way to have separate, self-contained accommodation on your property without building something new or separate.

How do I do it?

If designed well, you may not need a resource consent. There are various planning rules you need to comply with though, and these vary depending on the zone your site is located in. As a general comment, splitting a dwelling into two is much harder to obtain resource consent for in the rural zones and we would suggest you get planning advice before proceeding too far; the risk may be too high to proceed.

You may need a building consent. To get the full picture we would suggest initial discussions with a planner and an architectural designer. You can then make a decision on how to proceed, and know what Council consents you’ll need.

Things to look out for:

As with all development, there are some things you need to check out at the start and remember there are both planning and building requirements at play, so you need to make sure you comply with both. We suggest you consider:

  • sit down with an architectural designer and talk about your options. There’s limited point in spending the money if you end up with odd spaces that don’t function well. Keep resale value in mind,

  • how will you fire rate the areas?

  • where will the outdoor living and service areas be for each unit?

  • where will parking be for each unit?

  • is there enough servicing capacity for a new dwelling? This is most important in rural locations, where on- site servicing is usually developed for the service “load” expected at the time. If you’re now increasing it, you may need to increase the servicing capacity. In terms of wastewater, if you manage wastewater on your site you need to check that you don’t trigger the need for a wastewater discharge consent (a type of resource consent),

  • do you want to subdivide the new unit or keep them on one title? This should be considered at development planning stage as it can affect how you develop the site in practical terms,

  • is there anything on your certificate of title affecting development? There may be a land covenant for example that allows only one dwelling.

How much will it cost?

The costs will vary hugely, depending on how your house is built, what updates are needed, if you’re doing any extensions and what consents you require. You would also be required to pay Council fees, such as development contributions. Do your homework at the start to avoid being burned later on!

Can I add onto the existing house?

Yes you can, but in some areas (the Single House Zone, in Auckland) the planning rules require that the building existed at 13 September 2013 so we recommend that the majority of the building remain (i.e. we wouldn’t recommend keeping only a small part of the original building and then rebuilding an almost completely new structure). In other residential zones the rules are more lenient, as you can often build more than one house and the planning restrictions are different.

Want further information?

We understand people’s desire to develop their land to get the best results possible. We also know development can be confusing, stressful and expensive. We’re resource consent specialists and have been working in this area for many years; we know the processes inside out and our aim is always to take the stress out of the process for our clients.

If you have any queries on developing land don’t hesitate to get in contact. You can contact us on 427 9966 or hello@planningplus.co.nz.

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.

Hannah Thomson is Director of Planning Plus and has over 17 years of resource management experience working in both local government and the private sector. Hannah has a wide range of experience including commercial, rural, residential and coastal development and subdivision on small to large scales and appearances at both Council and Environment Court as an expert witness for mediation and hearings. Hannah has assisted Councils with policy development and has also assisted private individuals with submissions to Council.

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