What is a Certificate of Acceptance (COA)?
The Building Act 2004, section 96 – 99A allows for any person to apply to their Council / Building Consent Authority (BCA) for a Certificate of Acceptance (COA) for non-consented work that has been completed after 1 July 1992.
Under what circumstances can you apply for a COA?
Under section 97 you can apply for a COA:
- If the work was done by the owner or a previous owner; and a building consent was required for the work but was not obtained; or
- If the building work was carried out under urgency for the purpose of saving or protecting life or health or preventing serious damage to property, and where there was no time to obtain a Building Consent e.g. wastewater drains; or
- Where a private Building Consent Authority (non-Council) is unable or refuses to issue a Code Compliance Certificate (CCC), even though they have issued a Building Consent for this work.
When do you apply for a COA?
Urgent building work
The owner (or agent) must, as soon as practicable after completion of urgent building work, apply for a COA. If they do not do so, they commit an offence and are liable to a fine not exceeding $5,000.
Notice to fix requirement
Sometimes during construction of work that has a building consent, the work is found to not comply with the approved plans and specifications. This may be because
- it has been built wrong, or
- it has been built to unconsented changes in the plans and specifications.
In this situation, the Council Building Officer will issue a Notice to Fix either instructing the owner that the work will be rectified because it is non-compliant or for unconsented work that the owner has to make an application for a COA to cover this work. The owner must make the application within the timeframes specified in the Notice to Fix or face the possibility of an Infringement Notice (with a fine), or further legal action. This work will be excluded from the Code Compliance Certificate at the end of construction.
Who makes the application for the COA?
The building owner or their authorised agent
How do you apply for a COA?
A Certificate of Acceptance must be applied for on the prescribed form. This is Certificate of Acceptance (Form 8) on the forms page.
The application must also be accompanied by:
- Plans and specifications.
- Any other information that is required by regulations or by the Council.
- The charge fixed by the Council (COA fee). And any other relevant fees, charges, or levies.
- A project information memorandum for the building work, if one has been issued.
- If a compliance schedule (public / commercial building only) is required as a result of the building work, attach a list of all specified systems for the building.
- If an amendment to an existing compliance schedule is required as a result of the building work, attach a list of all specified systems that are being – altered to, added to or removed from the building in the course of the building work.
Assessing the application
The Council has 20 working days, from the time of lodgement, to process the application and make a decision on whether to grant and issue; or to refuse to issue the certificate. This involves both document processing and on-site inspections.
However, a Council may, within the 20 days, require further reasonable information in respect of the application; and, if it does so, the 20-day processing clock is stopped. Once that information is received, the clock continues.
The Officer will:
- Check whether any Building Consent exists for this work. If a Building Consent exists they will check whether the BCA or certifier refused to issue a CCC, or was unable to issue the CCC. If this was the situation, then an application for a COA is appropriate. Assess the documentation provided for compliance with the Building Code.
- Carry out an on-site inspection to assess the building work for compliance with the Building Code. See also Inspection Checklists page.
- Even if the building work was carried out some years ago, the work will be assessed against the current Building Code at the time of the COA application. The COA can only cover work that is visible – where the work can be inspected and can be seen to be compliant with the Building Code, e.g. it cannot cover work hidden behind internal or external claddings.
The decision to grant and issue, or to refuse to issue the COA
A Council (BCA) may issue a Certificate of Acceptance only if it is satisfied, to the best of its knowledge and belief and on reasonable grounds, that, in so far as it could ascertain, the building work complies with the building code (Building Act 2004 – section 96). If a Council refuses to grant an application for a COA, the Council must give the applicant written a notice of
- The refusal; and
- The reasons for the refusal.
A COA may be qualified to the effect that only parts of the building work were able to be inspected (Building Act 2004 – section 99-2).
A COA cannot be issued in the following circumstances:
- For any work completed without a Building Consent prior to 1 July 1992. There is no process available through Councils for acceptance or qualification of this work. Where such building work is the subject of a condition for a building report in a sale and purchase agreement, then you will need to obtain the inspection services of a qualified person from the private sector.
- Where a Building Consent has been obtained (except where a BCA or certifier is unable or refuses to issue a CCC), i.e. the owner needs to complete the Building Consent process and apply for a CCC.
- Where the Council is NOT satisfied, to the best of its knowledge and belief and on reasonable grounds, that, insofar as it could ascertain, the building work complies with the building code.
- If development contributions have not been paid, the certificate is granted but is withheld until payment has been made (section 99AA and section 208).
The Building Act 2004 allows Building Consent Authorities to charge both a COA fee as well as the full fees; charges and levies that would have been payable if the Owner had applied for a Building Consent prior to building. These fees are available from your Council.
NOTE: If the work was done by the owner or any predecessor in title of the owner; and a building consent was required for the work but not obtained; an application for a COA must be accompanied by any fees, charges or levies that would have been payable had the owner, or the owner’s predecessor in title, applied for a building consent before carrying out the building work (Building Act 2004, Section 97(e) of the Building Act 2004. So if the work is not urgent (an immediate risk to life or property), do it right and get a building consent before you start construction.
- It is illegal to carry out building work without a Building Consent or where the work does not comply with the Building Consent that has been issued (Building Act 2004, section 40).
- The owner of any building work carried out under urgency commits an offense if they do not apply for a Certificate of Acceptance as soon as practicable after completion of the urgent building work. A person who commits an offence under this section is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000. (Building Act 2004, section 42).
NOTE: If you build without a Building Consent you may have trouble selling the building or obtaining insurance. If the building is damaged or destroyed because of a fault occurring in the unauthorized work, an insurance company could legally refuse to pay you.