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Obtaining a Code Compliance Certificate

You are probably here because you want one. Frequently the first time you even realise your house doesn't have one is when you come to sell and the real estate agent asks you if there is one. These bits of paper have become very important in the minds of buyers and it is not unusual for a house sale to fall over for lack of one

If this is you, the first and most important bit of advice I have is: whatever you do (and whatever the real estate agent says), do not sign a sale and purchase agreement which is conditional on you getting one! This is because they can be next to impossible to obtain in some circumstances.

Where to start?

The Notice to Fix

Once you apply for a CCC, you set in motion a train which cannot easily be stopped or derailed. Council is extremely limited in how they can respond - basically they can issue you the CCC, if they feel confident that they have "reasonable grounds" for doing so. If they cannot tick that box, up until relatively recently they would "automatically" issue you with a "Notice to Fix" which lists the areas of non compliance with the building code. This is generally very scary. I am reliably informed that as of November 2013 in Auckland at least, the Council is more likely to use third option - a "Section 95A letter"

Section 95A

This section of the Building Act is worth quoting in full, as it is so important:
"95A Refusal to issue code compliance certificate
If a building consent authority refuses to issue a code compliance certficate, the building consent authority must give the applicant written notice of -
(a) the refusal; and
(b) the reasons for the refusal."

You will see this is a lot less frightening than a Notice to Fix. I simply do not understand why Councils have not elected to use this, but have instead gone straight to a Notice To Fix, all I can suggest is that when you apply for a CCC, include a letter specifically requesting that IF they decide not to issue the CCC, they give you a section 95A reponse and NOT a Notice to Fix. Hopefully that might work. The obvious advantage of the section 95A letter is that it does not require you to do anything.

But if that doesn't work, and you get a Notice to Fix, you do not have many options. You can appeal to the Department of Building and Housing if you think the Notice is way over the top. An obvious example is them telling you to reclad the whole house when you are dammed sure there is little, if anything wrong with it. Your only other alternative is to abide by the Notice To Fix - and they have the power to fine you large amounts if you don't.

Go back a step

Okay, that all sounds a bit scary, what are the other alternatives? The most obvious one is to simply sell the house (if that is what you are trying to do) "As is, where is". In other words, take a drop in value and move on. There are plenty of buyers out there confident they can get a CCC. Let them. And let me say it again: Do NOT fall into the trap of assuming getting a CCC is just a formality and therefore sign an agreement making you responsible for doing it!

Think again about how likely it is the house might pass. Here are a few simple questions:

That is a list of 5 simple questions you can answer without any research at all. And if you answered "yes" to any of them (let alone more than one), you can safely assume your local Council will take quite a lot of convincing the house is code compliant.

Do a little more research.

See if you can find out if the framing timber was treated. Here words carry no weight whatsoever, nor do quotes. That is, even if you have the original quote for the framing, it means nothing - you need proof of what was used. Even less convincing are the assurances from the builder that he used treated timber. I could tell you so many stories......no, what is needed is a statement from the company that made the frames and/or supplied the timber on their letterhead. Nothing less. But if you are told early on the framing was KDUT (Kiln Dried UnTreated, or "Chemical Free", then forget it, no need to get any paper. Now things have got serious.

Next see if you can find out if the cladding was direct fixed to the framing - that is, without a cavity. Highly likely if the house was built prior to 2002. Without a cavity to allow water to drain away quickly and air to circulate to dry things out.....the framing is more at risk of staying wet longer and that is the condition that allows fungal decay to get started

Then?

Once you realise the house has more than one issue - more than one of the things on that list above and/or monolithic cladding without a cavity / untreated framing, that would be the time to reconsider the application for the CCC. If the consent was issued prior to the new (2004) Act, you are under no obligation to apply for one. No one can force you to apply for one. So do you really want to start that train, that process which cannot be stopped?

But what else can I do?

There may be three possibilities:

That last one is fraught with danger, or can be. As stated on the front page, once the house has a certain combination of characteristics, it will be diffiucult indeed to effect repairs which convince the Council to issue a CCC. Those features again:

Now if the house has those features, but there are mitigating circumstances such as an exceptionally protected site, wide protecting eaves and it is only single story and you have never even seen a hint of a problem.... you never know. But you are probably here because there is a problem, and that is what this discussion is about - fixing specific problems, rather than recladding the whole house. And I am saying: doubtful. It might be possible, but doubtful. Targeted repairs work well when the house is low risk and generally working, except in one or two exceptional spots which do lend themselves to tailored solutions. But targeted repairs are not appropriate when there are "generic" or widespread problems.



What was that about "Temporary" repairs?

These could also be called "Maintenance" in some cases. It is usually forgotten that no building componants are expected (or required) to last forever. The cladding only has to last 15 years. Once you understand the concept of "life cycle costs" you realise it all costs money, all the time. You start comparing the spending of some money each year on high maintenance with spending far, far more on recladding. And thinking about budgeting to replace the cladding after x number of years. It is a different mind set to the traditional "Do it once and forget it". In fact no building componants can be forgotten - everything requires maintenance.

So the suggestion here is that if, say, you have the probes put in and an inspection carried out by a building surveyor and some problems are identified which can in fact be "held in check" by regular, scrupulous maintenance for x number of years while you save up for the inevitable recladding....that seems perfectly reasonable. It may not get get you a CCC until you reclad, but then again you might find a building surveyor who would fight the good fight for you - try to convince Council your Amazing Maintenance Regime will actually keep the house compliant. Seriously, that might be an option - some Councils suggest you put in an Amendment to the original building consent which makes your Amazing Maintenance Regime a condition of that consent. This is quite a clever concept, as it means that now the Building Consent has only been issued on the understanding the maintenance will be carried out, so if it isn't, and things start to go wrong, it would appear to be slightly more difficult to sue the Council. Yet to be tested in Court.

Anything else?

Actually, yes. Along with that amendment to the original building consent so it is now conditional on the maintenance regime, there are at least two other carrots you can offer Council to entice them to give you a CCC.

These are all methods by which you can reduce the perceived risk to Council, and thereby make them more open to writing out the CCC. You need to think about all this quite carefully and take appropriate advice.

Further reading: Check out this recent Determination from the Department of Building and Housing which deals with a modification to B2 More