A semi-retired couple wanted to help their daughter to get into her first home.  They came up with the idea of subdividing their existing property to give her the section at the back so she could build her own home on it.

Once they spoke to a surveyor and a lawyer, they discovered that the process was more complicated than they realised.  They were able to work through the various issues, but it took much more time than they anticipated.

A subdivision process involves the division of a parcel of land and the issue of new titles for the parcels of land that are created.  While it may seem like a simple process, there are several factors to consider prior to beginning the subdivision process, as it can be a costly and time consuming exercise. 

The first thing you need to be aware of is that you will require assistance from several different parties.  For a backyard residential subdivision you will need a lawyer and a surveyor and you will need to consult with the Council regularly throughout the subdivision process in order to obtain a resource consent and comply with any conditions and restrictions that the Council put in place.  If the subdivision is a larger project you may also need to involve quantity surveyors, engineers and other professionals and will likely need to pay ‘development fees’ to Council. 

The steps in the process are:

Search the title

 As an initial step, it is advisable to have your solicitor review the head title (the title to the land being subdivided) to ensure that there are no restrictive interests on the title that prevent it from being further subdivided. 

Apply for Resource Consent 

 An application for the subdivision will need to be prepared and submitted to the Council. 

It is advisable to have a surveyor involved at this stage as this involves a specialised resource consent application.  In this application you should be able to provide the Council with a plan for the subdivision, including the dimensions for the proposed lots. 

Engage a Surveyor and submit a survey plan      

 Once consent from the Council is obtained, you have five years in which to submit a survey plan. This survey plan is required to satisfy the conditions of the Council’s consent that may include the addition of new driveways or water, power, phone and internet connections.  The Council will certify the subdivision if it has satisfied the specified conditions.   

Obtaining new titles 

The final stage is obtaining titles for each resulting lot in the subdivision.  You will need to consider whether you want to include any covenants or easements on the land for things like restrictions on what can be built on the land, shared rights of way, drainage rights etc.  Legal advice on the latter point is essential as you want to ensure that each lot is obtaining all of the interests necessary to function properly in the subdivision. 

It is vital that you take professional advice early in the process to make sure the process is as smooth as possible for you.