Do I need a building consent?

Although nearly all building work requires a building consent to be obtained before starting work there is some work that you can do without a building consent. 

The Building Act 2004 is the legislation that applies to building work in the first case.

About the Act

The Building Act describes building work, noting that the description includes some types of design and supervision.

 building work

(a) means work—

(i) for, or in connection with, the construction, alteration, demolition, or removal of a building; and

(ii) on an allotment that is likely to affect the extent to which an existing building on that allotment complies with the building code; and

(b) includes sitework;

About consents

Before you start building work, you must obtain a building consent [unless the work is exempt from the need to first obtain consent].

The Building Act describes a building consent as “a consent to carry out building work granted by a building consent authority” [a Building Consent Authority is the Council building control team.].

Building work also includes plumbing and drainage work and sometimes electrical.

Generally, when you intend to do some building work, it is safer to assume you require a consent unless you can clearly establish that you don’t.

In the first instance, you should talk to a local designer or builder to get their view.


Building owners

It is important to note that even where you seek advice from other parties, the Building Act places the obligation on the building owner to obtain consents where required.

Not obtaining a consent where one is required can create a range of issues for building owners and can create a problem in the future.

Key points to consider

  • All building work must comply with the building code to the extent required by this Act, whether or not a building consent is required in respect of that building work.
  • In some cases, although you may get a building consent you may need approvals under other legislation such as the resource management Act or permits under council bylaws before starting work.
  • An exemption from the need to obtain a building consent does not, of itself, permit building work if that building work would be in breach of any other act e.g. exempt building work may still require planning approval.

Tiny Homes

We have received a number of queries regarding tiny homes and building consents. The critical component to remember is that if you are building a structure for the purposes of living in permanently then it likely requires a building consent, regardless of the number of wheels.

If you are moving an existing “tiny home” into the district then you will need a building consent for the connection to the services and any foundations.

In addition to building consents you may also require a resource consent. These approvals need to be obtained first.

Exempt building work

The Building Act schedule one allows buildings up to 30m2 to be built without a building consent under very specific circumstances. The owner needs to check that they meet all of the criteria including that the building can be no closer than its own height to the boundary.

You also need to ensure that you do not need a resource consent. If you breach other legislation the exemption no longer applies. For plumbers and drainlayers, if you are being asked to install bathrooms kitchens etc into an exempt building that work requires building consent approval.