DIY Building Work on the Farm

5 July 2015

We’re a great nation of Do It Yourselfers, particularly on the farm. As a result we’ve gained a reputation for our no 8 wire attitude, our resourcefulness and our ability to come up with innovative solutions to problems. However, there can be significant downsides if DIY building work is done on the farm that doesn’t comply with legal requirements.


Comply with the law and obtain consents

If you decide to do any building work on your property you may need a building consent. However, not all types of building work require a building consent – for example, certain repair and maintenance work.

From March 2012, only tradespeople who are “Licensed Building Practitioners” are permitted to design and carry out “Restricted Building Work”. “Restricted Building Work” is work that requires a building consent and relates to the structural integrity or weather tightness of houses and small-medium apartment buildings; and fire safety systems of small-medium apartment buildings.

An owner-builder may be exempted from the restriction and be able to carry out Restricted Building Work if he or she meets certain requirements. They are: the owner-builder has the right to live in the building; lives or intends to live in the building; carries out the work himself or herself or with the help of unpaid family or friends; has not carried out any other Restricted Building Work in relation to a different house in the last three years; and files a statutory declaration with the Council stating that the work was done under the owner-builder exemption. (The latter information will be available to anyone who inspects the Council file, such as a subsequent purchaser.) A farm owner would therefore be able to do Restricted Building Work on his or her own home on the farm, but not in respect of any other house on the farm.

Even if the building work doesn’t require a building consent, it will still be necessary to comply with the Building Code. The Building Code sets out the performance standards for buildings, including structural stability and fire safety. It may also be necessary to obtain a resource consent. Some work must only be done by a registered electrician or plumber and gasfitter.


If you don’t comply

If you do building work without obtaining a building consent, you may be able to obtain a “Certificate of Acceptance” from the Council. This certificate verifies that the work was carried out in accordance with the Building Code in place at the time of application for the certificate.

There can be serious consequences if you don’t obtain the consents required or comply with the Building Code or other relevant law. You could be convicted of an offence if you carry out work under the Building Act without the necessary consent and be required to pay a fine. You may not be able to insure the building, or an insurance claim could be declined.

You could also be liable to the purchaser when you sell the property unless you change the standard fine print in the agreement.


Before you start

Before you start on any building work, it pays to investigate the relevant legal requirements and consider whether it is worthwhile getting professionals to do the work.



Please email me at [email protected] with your ideas for future articles. Keep an eye out for next month's column, where I will discuss another relevant rural legal issue.

Barbara McDermott is a partner of Norris Ward McKinnon, specialising in commercial and rural law. With offices in Hamilton and Huntly, we have friendly, expert legal advisors ready to help you with your business and personal legal matters.