For years the Kiwi backyard builder has fought the battle of legal red tape interfering with what they could do in their own backyard. After all, we considered ourselves to be king or queens of our own little castle and all we ruled over within the boundary pegs of our domain.

However, in 2020 New Zealand saw the introduction of the “Building (Exempt Building Work) Order 2020” which would have lit up the eyes of even the most basic Handyman/woman and inspired the inception of many a new backyard creation.

Not only did the “Order” allow us to suddenly undertaken building activities such, porches, carports, porches decks, awnings (with certain size limitations) without the need to employ a licenced building practitioner but it also allowed us to build bigger and better backyard creations without requiring a building consent.

Now with the Government’s recent announcement of sweeping changes to the housing density rules (which if passed) will come into effect from August 2022, can we expect to see multi-level sheds and sleepouts popping up in many suburban backyards?

The current “Building (Exempt Building Work) Order 2020” exemptions only apply to buildings constructed after the Building Order came into effect and is not retrospective to any existing innovative backyard creations erected prior to that date.

Basically, the exemptions increase the size of a single storey detached building that can be constructed without a consent. It used to be 10sqm, now it’s 30sqm. Three times the fun!

There are however some basic rules to follow, but when has the typical Kiwi backyard handyman ever let that stand in their way?

I’m not going to breakdown all that legislation completely, but here’s a list of considerations Building Performance recommend before beginning your summer project:

Building Materials
The Building Code requires building materials, components, and construction methods to be sufficiently durable to ensure the building (without reconstruction or major renovation) satisfies the other functional requirements of the Building Code for the life of the building. (I’m not sure if that means until it falls over).

A standalone building of up to 30m2 may be used for sleeping accommodation however it needs to be used in connection with a residential dwelling and kitchen and bathroom facilities are not included in the exemption. Any plumbing work to a new or current building will still require a building consent, and any electrical work will still have to be carried out by a registered electrician. Plus whatever you build still needs to adhere to the Building Code and any other legislative requirements, like the Resource Management Act 1991, the Electricity Act 1992 and the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. Also remember if you are looking to rent it out under the Residential Tenancy Act the sleepout will need to comply with the Healthy Homes which may include heating, ventilation, moisture ingress and drainage, draft stopping and smoke alarms.

Smoke alarms
You must install smoke alarms if the detached building is going to be used for sleeping.

You need to consider the Building Code requirements regarding the disposal of stormwater from the roof of your building. You should seek professional guidance and seek approval from your council. All new drains must be laid by an authorised drainlayer.

On-site wastewater disposal systems
If the building is intended to be a sleepout in connection with an existing dwelling, and the waste water from the existing dwelling discharges to an on-site waste water disposal system (ie a septic tank), you need to check that the existing waste water disposal system has the capacity for the extra persons.

Location of services
You need to confirm the location of any underground services that could affect the location of the build. Check with your local council and an underground services location company to ensure you are not building over any existing below ground services, such as drains, electricity, gas, telecommunications etc

District planning
Always check with your local council to make sure your proposed building work does not have any district or regional planning implications taking consideration of maximum site coverage, yard or setback requirements, daylight access planes or permitted activities. A resource consent may be required and it is important that this is obtained before starting any building work.

Building close to boundaries
If you are building close to boundaries, you need to consider the Building Code requirements regarding protection from fire, particularly in relation to the external spread of fire to neighbouring property.

Measuring the net floor area
The net floor area in a building is measured to the inside of the enclosing walls or posts/columns.

Handily, Building Performance have also provided some examples of what is and isn’t exempt.
What is exempt

  1. The owners of a commercial property intend to construct a 30 square metre detached building to serve as a garage. The proposed building will be more than its own height away from the boundaries and it contains no potable water supply and no facilities for cooking or sanitation. The owners want to buy a pre-engineered kitset from a proprietary product supplier or manufacturer which has been signed off by a chartered professional engineer for design. The kitset is then installed by the property owner in accordance with the instruction manual.
  2. A 25 square metre sleepout is constructed in the backyard of a residential dwelling. It is more than its own height away from all boundaries and the associated residential dwelling, and does not contain cooking or sanitary facilities, or a potable water supply. Plans and specifications associated with the kitsets and prefabs are signed off by a chartered professional engineer. Subsequently, the work is carried out in accordance with that design.

All this could of course change if the new housing density legislation comes into effect next August. (Hold onto your tickets).

But It’s nearly summer, so get out there and start your next backyard project.

The above Blog is not intended to be used as either technical or legal advice and all readers are actively encouraged to do their own research and seek independent technical and/or legal advice before proceeding with your own backyard construction.

David Rankin – Branch Manager
First National Progressive