Renovation – Legal Considerations

Renovation involves much more than the prospect of improving the building with additions and replacements, and the expense involved. This is because there are numerous legal considerations to be taken into account as well. Legal tangles can result if the requisite clearances are not taken before hand, and can cost a lot of money in fines and damage to work done. Hence it is preferable to iron out the legal complications before starting the renovating exercise.

Renovation may involve and extension of the existing premises either on the same floor or building another floor. Before starting out on the renovation exercise, it is important to know the legal requirements and legal clearances involved.

Steps involved in the legal process

  • New and old structures need to comply with the Building Code laid out under the Building Act.
  • This will mean taking a ‘building consent’ from the local council for all alterations unless it has been established that the changes being made are exempted by the law.
  • It is possible to get to know all such exempted jobs and other regulations from a booklet produced by the Department of Building and Housing called ‘The Building Act and You’. This is a guide that explains the entire legal process and an owner’s rights and responsibilities even while renovating a building. Doing everything legally will prevent expensive mistakes and also laws that protect owner rights if things go awry.
  • Some of the jobs exempted from requiring permission include removing an internal wall, fencing up to a height of two meters, low garden sheds, decks and closing of verandahs. The local council may exempt a few other tasks.
  • Since this task requires prior knowledge, many owners assign the task to the renovation contractor, architect or even engage a lawyer for the purpose.
  • The planned changes have to be submitted as a plan to the Building Consent Authority (BCA), which will give its consent if they are permissible and after this the renovation can begin.
  • Upon completion the BCA will come for an inspection, and if satisfied, issue a CCC or Code Compliance Certificate, which must be taken within two years of getting consent in the first place.

Building owners can enter into a renovation contract with the contractor undertaking the renovation work. A contract is generally signed to get in writing, the terms of work and the arrangement entered into, including the payment, failure to keep dates or delivery schedules. A specific Contract law ensures that people employed for the renovation abide by the rules and in case there is a breach, what course to take. Certain acts passed by the government ensure that all concerned parties understand their responsibilities and their rights, and if necessary, can appeal against any wrong doing. These include the Construction Contracts Act which covers all payment related issues, the Fair Trading Act and Consumer Guarantees Act, to name a few. The idea behind these acts is to ensure adherence to the law and keeping the best interests of all concerned parties, the neighborhood and the whole community.

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