ARTICLE Peter Thorby

Your legal obligations fall into two main areas: complying with your council’s rules about building height, distance from boundaries and site coverage; and obtaining a Building Consent, if applicable, and complying with the Building Code for how the garage is designed and constructed.

First, you should check the District Plan rules to determine the allowable site coverage, heights relative to boundary and distance from the boundary. If you are following the profile of the existing garage, you may have ‘existing-use’ rights, but it’s important that you check with your local council. If your proposal does not meet the District Plan rules then you will need a Resource Consent from your council.

In some cases, for example when replacing a carport of up to 20 square metres, you may be able to build without having to get a Building Consent. Before beginning the project you should read 'A guide to building work that does not require a building consent' and discuss your proposals with your council to determine whether or not a Building Consent is required.

Regardless of whether a Building Consent is required, the replacement garage or carport must comply with the New Zealand Building Code. In most cases, for a stand-alone garage or carport, the Building Code requires it to be strong enough to resist all likely loads including earthquake, wind and snow (which depend on where your property is). Rainwater needs to be controlled and disposed of without affecting your neighbour’s property, and the garage or carport needs to be built so that fire is unlikely to spread to neighbouring property.

When you apply to the council for a Building Consent you will need to provide detailed drawings and specifications for what you are proposing to build. These will need to show how your building complies with the Building Code. If you are using a building company to design and supply your garage or carport then they will usually be able to apply for the Building Consent on your behalf, and provide the council with all the information that is required.

Provided your replacement garage does not include a sleep-out, designing and building a stand-alone garage or carport is not restricted building work and does not need to be carried out by licensed practitioners. Any electrical work must be done, or signed off, by a registered electrician who will issue an Electrical Certificate of Compliance on completion. If you did get a Building Consent, the council will need to inspect the work at various stages of construction, so that they can issue you with a Code Compliance Certificate.

Information about the Building Act, Restricted Building Work, and the Building Code can be freely downloaded from the Department of Building and Housing website.

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This expert advice by Peter Thorby featured on page 42 of Issue 004 of New Zealand Renovate Magazine. New Zealand's first and only magazine solely dedicated to home renovations.

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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