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Alteration or subdivision of an existing building

Changes made to an existing building are considered to be an alteration. This may include, for example, increasing or decreasing the floor area, making or closing an opening, erecting or demolishing a wall etc.

Usually this requires a building consent, but it will depend on the extent of work being undertaken - check the Council and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's guidance on building works that do not require consent.

Apply for consent to alter an existing building

The building consent can only be granted where the building consent authority/territorial authority is satisfied that the building will:

  • comply as is reasonably practicable with the Building Code provisions for means of escape from fire and access and facilities for people with disabilities (as required)
  • continue to comply with the other provisions of the building code to at least the same extent as before the alteration.

Building consent authorities are allowed to grant building consent for the alteration of an existing building. The Act clarifies that if part of a building is altered, upgrade provisions for the rest of the whole building are triggered.

When applying for building consent to alter and existing commercial building, you will need to provide a suitable report covering means of escape from fire (fire report) and access and facilities for people with disabilities.

If you are altering a building that is subject to an earthquake prone building Notice, section 133AT of the Act provides additional upgrade exclusions.

When altering a commercial building make sure the design professionals have appropriate skills, experience and competence to make the application to avoid your application being suspended or refused.

MBIE has developed a five-step process including a simple flow chart that will help you to understand how you can meet the requirements and the information you will need to provide.

Extension to the specified intended life

All buildings are expected to have an indefinite life, exceeding 50 years. Sometimes, they could be assessed as having a life of less than 50 years, due to, for example,  the building only having a temporary location or use. These factors and the building's intended life need to be stated on the building consent application if applicable.

If a building with a specified intended life is planned, it will be a condition of the building consent that is issued, that the building will be altered, demolished or removed before the end of this stated life. The building owner may request an "extension of life", and if the Council is reasonably satisfied that the building can satisfactorily perform to the building code, a further specified time/life may be agreed.

Applying for an extension to the specified life of a building.

An owner of a building must give written notice to the Council if it proposes extending the life of the building. The Council currently has no application form for this, therefore, the notification must be made in writing to Council stating the reason why there needs to be an extension and how long the extension need to be considered. There will be an inspection of the structure required and fees will be based on time to assess the structure etc.

Subdivision of land where there is an existing building

Notice must be given if the owner of a building proposes to subdivide land in a manner that affects a building. If the owner fails to give written notice in these circumstances they commit an offence and are liable to a maximum fine of $5000.

A Territorial Authority must not issue a certificate under section 224(f) of the Resource Consent Management Act 1991 for the purposes of giving effect to a subdivision affecting a building or part of a building unless it is satisfied, on reasonable grounds, that the building will comply, as near as is reasonably practicable, with every provision of the building code that relates to one or more of the following:

  • Means of escape from fire
  • Access and facilities for people with disabilities (if this is a requirement for the building)
  • Protection of other property

The building must also continue to comply with the other provisions of the building code at least to the same extent as before the subdivision application was made. This will often require a building consent application to undertake any necessary work to upgrade a building.

Last updated: 02 Apr 2024 4:22pm