We recommend that before you do anything that you read the advice on the MBIE website:
This provides ways of resolving issues with different industry stakeholders and obviously suggests as a first step that you talk with the person/people involved to see if you can sort out the issue. If that is unsuccessful then further action may be needed.
Industry complaints process
Concerns about Property / Neighbourhood Activities
As a property owner, the law gives you the right to the ordinary use and enjoyment of your land. But it is important to remember that your next door neighbour has the same rights. Being a good neighbour means minimising the possibility of creating a nuisance in your neighbourhood. A nuisance is an activity that could annoy your neighbours, e.g. barking dogs, loud stereos, or parking frequently in front of your neighbour’s driveway. There are laws in place, some enforced by Councils and others by individuals through civil legal actions, to ensure that nuisances are controlled.
Ideally, you and your neighbour will be able to resolve any problem by discussing it together. However, if necessary, the law may be able to help resolve the matter. While the law provides a remedy in many instances, it does not cover every case in which disagreements arise between neighbours. If you and your neighbour can’t agree on what to do, several courses of action can be taken such as mediation, arbitration, or your case could be taken to the Disputes Tribunal. A lawyer can advise you about your rights and any remedy available to protect you from your neighbour’s conduct.
Getting More Information and Help
- Illegal Building Work: Any construction of new buildings, alteration, demolition or maintenance of existing buildings must comply with the Building Act 2004, Building Regulations and Building Code. Usually, a Building Consent issued by the local Council is needed. A Building Consent is different from a Resource Consent, although both may be required. Neighbours cannot complain if the proper Building Consent has been issued and complied with, but if Building Consent has not been obtained, the Council can issue a notice requiring the Owner to rectify the work (this can include removal). Examples of illegal building work may be a garden shed or a carport located too close to a boundary fence. For further information contact your local Council.
- Dangerous or Insanitary Buildings: The Building Act 2004 requires all Councils to address issues associated with dangerous or insanitary buildings, the way in which individual Territorial Authorities approach this requirement may vary according to local circumstances.
- A building is dangerous if –
- in the ordinary course of events (excluding the occurrence of an earthquake), the building is likely to cause injury or death (whether by collapse or otherwise) to any persons in it or to persons on other property; or damage to other property; or
- in the event of a fire, injury or death to any persons in the building or to persons on other property is likely because of fire hazard or the occupancy of the building.
For the purpose of determining whether a building is dangerous, a Council may seek advice from members of the New Zealand Fire Service who have been notified to the Council by the Fire Service National Commander as being competent to give advice; and if the advice is sought, must have due regard to the advice.
- A building is insanitary if the building –
- is offensive or likely to be injurious to health because of how it is situated or constructed, or it is in a state of disrepair; or
- has insufficient or defective provisions against moisture penetration so as to cause dampness in the building or in any adjoining building; or
- does not have a supply of potable water that is adequate for its intended use, or does not have sanitary facilities that are adequate for its intended use.
- Swimming Pools: Swimming pool barriers (including fences or building walls that form part of a swimming pool barrier) must comply with clause F9 of the NZ Building Code and also the Building Act 2004. (Refer to Residential Pools for more information).
- Stormwater / Water Runoff: The Council will investigate stormwater issues when they arise from work that has or should have had a Building Consent or results from overflow from the street. Otherwise, stormwater is a private matter, please contact the Citizens Advice Bureau. In general, the responsibility of natural stormwater flows must be accepted by property owners. Additional artificial flows such as those generated by re-contouring land or development (such as paving or landscaping) should be contained within the property which generates them, but for further information contact the Water & Wastewater Unit of your local Council.
- Boundary Encroachment: An encroachment can occur when a building or a fence is over the boundary. This is technically a trespass for which the encroaching owner is legally responsible, whether or not they erected the building or fence. The Court has certain powers to help in the case of encroachments. Seek advice from your lawyer or local Citizens Advice Bureau.
- Fences: Boundary fences between private properties are a civil matter under the Fencing Act 1978. The Council has no jurisdiction over disputes relating to boundary fences under this Act. Fences that are over 2.5 meters in height require a Building Consent. Seek advice from your lawyer or local Citizens Advice Bureau. If your boundary fence is shared with Council property, contact your local Council. (Refer to Fences and Retaining Walls for more information). New Zealand Law Society has a pamphlet on Fences and Neighbours available and Consumer about Fencing Law. Note some Councils have height restrictions for fences and these are set in the district plan or bylaws.
- Retaining Walls: A Building Consent is required for any retaining wall that is: higher than 1.5 meters, or less than 1.5 meters but is load-bearing (carrying a ‘surcharge’ or external loads such as a parking area or weight of a bank above the wall). If you believe a retaining wall has been constructed illegally, seek advice from your local Council. (Refer to Fences and Retaining Walls for more information).
- Fires: In some areas, fires are permitted during certain times of the year, and in others, a permit is required, especially over the summer months. The fire must be controlled and smoke, ash, and odour must not cause a nuisance to neighbours. Residents should try and minimise nuisance to neighbours in these areas by advising them beforehand and checking wind directions. For information on fire permits and bans and bylaws, or to report nuisance fires contact the Environmental Health Unit of your local Council. Further information on bylaws can be found in the Councils District Plan available from their website.
- Trees: Under the Property Law Amendment Act 1975 property owners are responsible for any nuisance or damage their trees cause to neighbours (refer to Consumer’s Trees and Neighbours. If there are trees on private land causing problems with shading, leaf fall or roots blocking drains, then you will have to deal directly with the property owner as the Council cannot assist in this area.
- Some trees may require trimming by your local Council if they hang over the road/footpath and cause problems for traffic or pedestrians. In this instance or for information about protected trees contact the Planning Unit of your local Council.
- Health Concerns: Health issues regarding properties such as effluent discharges (e.g. from a septic tank), or similar health concerns should also be reported to Council for further investigation, and action, if necessary. PLEASE NOTE: Not all hazard or nuisance issues are Council’s responsibility – in some cases, we will refer you to the appropriate agency. Examples could be dilapidated buildings, excess mould on rental properties, or long dry grass posing a fire hazard during periods of high fire risk.
Concerns about Building Consent Services
You have the right to appeal any decision the Building Consent Authority (Council Building Unit) has made, or complain about any building control function the Building Consent Authority (your local Council) undertakes, and to have the complaint managed.
What is a building control function?
A concern in relation to building control is a concern about:
- Meeting statutory time frames
- Lodgement or vetting of Building Consent applications
- Processing of Building Consent applications
- Inspection of work under construction
- Issuing a Notice to Fix
- Issuing of Code Compliance Certificates
- Issuing Compliance Schedules
- Provision of information in relation to a Building Consent
- Building fees and charges
- Legislative or Building Code requirements
Lodging a Concern
If you would like to lodge a concern, please do so in writing to the Building Manager of your local Council. You may also visit them in person (the concern must also be accompanied in writing). You will need to provide the following information:
- Date incident occurred.
- Nature of complaint (for example guidance information, vetting, lodgement, inspection, Notice to Fix, Code Compliance Certificate or Compliance Schedule).
- Copies of any supporting information (if applicable).
- Relationship (customer, neighbour, regulator, or stakeholder).
All complainants will be responded to within the timeframes set in your Council’s Service Request or Complaint’s Policy.
What can I do if I do not agree with the outcome?
If you do not agree with the outcome you may request a review of the decision. All appeals must be made in writing setting out the reasons why you disagree with the decision and should be addressed to the Building Manager of your local Council. All appeals will be responded to within 10 working days.
If you are still unhappy or choose to use an alternative route to settle a matter of doubt or dispute, you may apply to the Building System Performance group of MBIE for a Determination. A Determination is a binding decision made by the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) to solve disputes or questions about the rules that apply to buildings, how buildings are used, building accessibility, and health and safety. Please visit the Building Performance (MBIE) website if you would like further information on this service.
Concerns about Website Content
If the reader identifies any issues with the website content, it is reasonably expected that the reader will contact the Waikato Building Consent Group in writing and inform them of any issues, so that improvements can be made. Please email us to make a comment, report a problem. All complainants will be responded to promptly, and action will be taken within 20 working days of receipt of concern unless a request for further information is made.
- The New Zealand Law Society publishes the “Our Fence – Who pays?” article which provides additional information and is available online from their website, www.lawsociety.org.nz
- Citizens Advice Bureau has a section on Neighbourhood Problems on their website www.cab.org.nz (animals, fencing, noise, ratepayers and ratepayer associations, trees).
- Housing New Zealand publishes an information sheet on Being a good neighbour, and it has some suggestions if there are neighbourhood disputes (which can apply to any situation). This sheet is available online from their website www.hnzc.co.nz.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) has an information sheet on Dispute Resolution on Unit Titles on their website www.building.govt.nz.
- Neighbourhood Support has a fact sheet on Fences and Neighbours and Neighbourhood Problem Solving available on their website neighbourhoodsupport.co.nz.
Last updated 2018-09-18