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Tiny home buyers should do their homework

Householders buying a relocatable or tiny house are being urged to do their homework on building consents or risk breaching council rules.

Tiny homes are becoming increasingly common in the Far North, but many are being built or installed without building consent because buyers believe they are exempt when they are not.

Under the Building Act 2004, any building, regardless of size, that contains sanitary fittings – sink, toilet, shower, etc – requires a building consent. The Schedule 1 exemption only applies to buildings under 30 square metres with no sanitary fittings and are their own height away from a boundary.

If the tiny home is on a trailer or skids, it is still considered a building under the Act and needs a consent, unless it can be legally towed on the public road and not connected to any services, except a caravan-style plug.

Some manufacturers appear to be misleading buyers by claiming no consent is needed or that they can apply for a Certificate of Acceptance (COA) after the building is onsite. However, the COA process is lengthy and includes submitting detailed evidence and reports to show the building meets the current New Zealand Building Code. The cost of this process falls entirely on the purchaser, not the manufacturer and Far North District Council cannot guarantee a COA will be issued.

Responsible businesses apply for building consents or exemptions for their relocatable homes before a sale, which is the correct procedure.

Potential buyers should request an Exemption Number or Certificate or a Code Compliance Certificate from the building manufacturer and confirm this with the council. That way, the purchaser will only need a wastewater and foundation consent for the building to be placed onsite.

For more information about the rules around consents for relocatable and tiny homes, head to our website or contact the building compliance team through the Request For Service system for free advice.