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Change of use

The Building Act 2004 introduced a new definition for change of use. This determines when a change in a building’s use will require upgrading to certain systems and elements. For example, a residential villa becomes a restaurant, a warehouse becomes an apartment. The Building Code requirements may differ from one type of use to another.

An owner of a building must give written notice to the council if they propose to change the use of a building, or extend the life of a building with a specified intended life.

An owner must also provide notice to the council if they propose to subdivide land in a manner that affects a building.

The council will then provide the owner with written notice if it is satisfied the building in its new use complies with provisions in the Building Code relating to:

  • means of escape from fire, protection of other property, sanitary facilities, structural performance, fire-rating performance
  • access and facilities for people with disabilities.

It must also comply with the other provisions in the Building Code to at least the same extent as before the change of use.

If the use of a building is being changed to include household units where these did not previously exist, the building must then comply as nearly as is reasonably practicable with the Building Code in all respects. This will be assessed by the council.

Alterations to existing buildings

The Building Act 2004 makes clear that, if part of a building is altered, the upgrade provisions are triggered for the whole building.

Upgrade provisions relate only to means of escape from fire, and access and facilities for people with disabilities (if relevant). All other aspects of the building must continue to comply with the Building Code to at least the same extent as before the alteration.

Councils have discretion to allow alterations to take place without the building complying with the relevant provisions of the Building Code, but only if it is satisfied that:

  • if the building were to comply with the relevant provisions of the Building Code the alteration would not take place, and
  • the alterations will result in improvements to the means of escape from fire or access and facilities for people with disabilities, and
  • the improvements outweigh any detriment likely to arise as a result of the other non-compliance with the Building Code.

Owners contemplating changes to their buildings should seek council agreement to the extent of upgrading required. This will be dependent on the particular building proposal and should be done at an early stage to avoid delays in obtaining a building consent.