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Building owners, managers and developers

The Building Act 2004 sets out rules for sales by residential property developers, and duties for building owners and managers. This is particularly so if you are the owner of a communal, commercial or industrial building. (Changes were made to some of these processes on 31 March 2005.)

It is the owner’s responsibility to:

  • apply for a building consent for any proposed building work (this includes construction, alteration, demolition and siteworks)
  • provide the necessary information with the building consent application to confirm compliance with the Building Code
  • notify the building consent authority of the names of licensed building practitioners engaged in work restricted under the licensing regime.
  • notify the territorial authority when a change of use is proposed
  • apply for a code compliance certificate on completion of building work
  • ensure that their building has a compliance schedule where this is a requirement of the Building Act
  • ensure that inspection, maintenance and reporting procedures are carried out where required by any compliance schedule for specified systems, including ensuring that:
    • all necessary inspections, maintenance and reporting are done by an appropriately qualified person
    • the compliance schedule is readily available for inspection by authorised persons
    • a current building warrant of fitness is prepared and displayed
  • maintain the building in a safe and sanitary condition at all times. (This includes measures regarding building work and premises intended for public use and ensuring testing for legionella bacteria takes place on a regular basis)
  • if there are concerns about building safety in earthquakes, get professional engineering advice and act on it. See Advice for building owners: Building safety in earthquakes

The Building Act introduced provisions for earthquake-prone buildings to improve the likelihood of existing buildings withstanding earthquakes. Territorial authorities are also developing policies on dangerous and insanitary buildings within their districts.

Consumer protection measures in the Act also set out certain warranties that are implied in all residential building contracts, and other consumer protection measures around the sale and occupancy of residential buildings.

The Act sets out penalties if the building owner fails to meet their responsibilities.

Tenants and the building owner

The building owner’s responsibilities are clear, whether or not the building is tenanted by others. The owner, however, can delegate those responsibilities to an employee of the owner or to someone else under a contract or a lease. Tenants could also be liable where they breach the Act. An owner, and anyone acting on the owner’s behalf in signing a building warrant of fitness, is liable for making any false statement in the warrant.

Employees of the building owner

In most instances, the owner will engage specialists for the design and construction of all or part of any proposed building work. Such specialists can be architects, engineers, design drafting agencies, builders, plumbers and electricians. For compliance schedule procedures, typical specialists can be building maintenance companies, lift engineers and electricians who are appropriately qualified.

The owner can choose who to employ to do the work or give advice. If, however, the Act is breached, the owner is likely to be fully liable, but any agents of the owner do not necessarily escape liability.