A couple preparing to sell their house decided to renovate their bathroom to attract a greater sale price. While at first they had minor upgrades in mind, the project soon spiralled into a comprehensive bathroom renovation with a new tiled shower, in addition to the existing bath and vanity.

A conditional offer to purchase the property was accepted, however during the course of the purchaser’s investigations, it was discovered that the bathroom renovations were not consented to by Council.  

Progress on the sale transaction came to a grinding halt as negotiations followed between the vendors and buyers, to get the transaction over the line.

The settlement date had to be extended as the vendor was required by the local Council to undertake further works on the bathroom to bring it up to building code prior to a Certificate of Acceptance being issued by the Council. This was a costly exercise for the vendor.

The purchasers’ insurance company and bank both required this Certificate of Acceptance prior to offering insurance and finance to the purchasers for this property.

It is important to understand what requires a building consent in the context of bathroom renovations.

Building consents are required for bathrooms if:

  • New tiling is being laid in a wet area (a walk-in shower);
  • Tiling adjacent to a shower over bath or on the floor; or
  • You are installing an additional water outlet, such as a shower over a bath in a bathroom that previously had only a bath and a vanity; or you are installing a shower in a bathroom that previously only had a vanity, bath and toilet.
  • You are moving a bathroom completely

A general rule of thumb also provides that building consents will not be required if you are replacing an item with a “like for like” replacement. This means that if you are replacing an old bath with a new bath, you will not be required to seek a building consent.

On the other hand, replacing an old bath with a new bath and a shower head over that new bath, this will trigger the requirement for a building consent because the shower head is an additional water outlet.

For more general renovations or alterations commonly undertaken around residential properties, building consents are required for:

  • Removing or altering a wall that has a load bearing or bracing element;
  • Converting a window into a doorway or French doors, where the door is wider than the original window;
  • Modifying an existing window where the new window is wider than the original window; or
  • Building a deck or retaining wall over 1.5 metres from ground level.

Navigating new renovations or purchasing a property without the required consents can quickly turn sour. It is always advisable to contact your local Council if you are undertaking renovations, as well as speak to a building professional about the requirements. 

If you are purchasing a property always obtain a LIM Report and a builder’s report and seek independent legal advice to make sure you are covered.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.

Therese Greenlees and Raiyan Azmi