Residential Building Work and Licensed Building Practitioners

Posted on Thursday, September 12 2013

Residential Building Work – What You Need to know!


Since 1 March 2012 if you are undertaking any ‘residential building work’, which relates to the design and structural integrity or weather tightness of a house or apartment building, now known as Residential Building Work (RBW), it’s highly likely you will need to the help of a Licensed Building Practitioner (LBP) to either complete or supervise the work. It will be an offence for RWB to be undertaken unless it is completed by an LBP.

What is RBW?
RBW is work which is essential to the structural integrity of a residential house or a small to medium-sized apartment building, including design work and moisture penetration (weather tightness). Therefore any works to load-bearing walls, foundations, roofs and cladding will be included as RBW.

Who is an LBP?
An LBP can include designers, carpenters, site managers, roofers, external plasterers, brick and block layers, and foundation specialists. Registered engineers and architects, plumbers and gasfitters are also LBPs due to their existing professional registration, therefore they can complete some RBW.

Can you still complete the work yourself?
Under the scheme, owner-builders are able to complete RBW without the help or supervision of a LBP. An owner-builder is classified as someone who has an interest in the property; either reside in the home or intend to reside in the home; complete the work themselves or with the help of unpaid friends or family; and they have not undertaken RBW on another property within the previous 3 years. The purpose of this is to enable homeowners to build and alter their own homes.

An owner-builder who intends to complete RBW will have to make a statutory declaration showing that they comply with the owner-builder exemption above and file this with the Council. This will be kept on the property’s Council file so that future buyers know the work was completed by an unlicensed practitioner.

The new requirements are intended to ensure that LBPs are competent and that property owners are informed of their contracted LPBs’ abilities. Consequently this puts some responsibility on home owners to ensure they have the right trades people engaged for the appropriate work.

Although not required by law, it will be beneficial for homeowners to have a written contract with the LBP, which sets out a full description of the building work to be completed, start and finish dates, what materials will be used and how it will be paid for, the obligations and responsibilities of each of the parties, how any variations to the contract will be dealt with, and how a dispute will be handled should one arise.

The Building Act 2004 however does still apply; providing home owners with implied warranties within a building contract should the contract fail to include them. Under the new scheme, home owners may also bring complaints to the Building Practitioners Board regarding LBPs or to the appropriate complaints authority for those who hold separate licences, such as architects, plumbers, engineers and gas fitters.

Although these changes do hold building contractors more accountable for their work, the new regime also places significant responsibilities on home owners to engage the right LBP and keep the council informed. It would seem that the responsibility for RBW is being shifted away from building consent authorities. Although this may mean an increase in building costs for home owners, as contractors ensure compliance with regulations and seek advice on insurance and liabilities, these changes should cause a decrease in building related disputes and litigation, and provide greater efficiency in the building regulatory industry.

For more information on the above do not hesitate to contact Anne Needham or Holly Brown of Rennie Cox, Solicitors, Auckland

By Anne Needham: Urban Legal

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Expert's Bio

Anne Needham

I have over 30 years experience in providing excellent residential property legal services to clients. I have an established local (NZ based) practice and also an extensive off shore client base having acted for clients dealing with New Zealand property who are located all over the world - the internet and cellphones have made this so very easy! In addition Rennie Cox/Urban Legal has been providing legal services since 1923 and is now a progressive modern law firm providing a wide range of legal services to clients.

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