Determination 2016/010 – Summary

Posted: 29 July 2016

The determination considered whether the houseboat is a ‘building’ for the purposes of the Building Act and whether it comes under one of the exceptions listed under section 9.

This determination considers the Building Consent Authority’s exercise of its powers of decision in issuing a notice to fix for a houseboat used as temporary accommodation.  The determination turned on whether the houseboat is a building under the Building Act 2004 and provides for some guidance around when a boat falls within the building regulatory regime.

The applicant was the owner, and the other party was the Building Consent Authority (BCA). The BCA had issued a notice to fix for the houseboat being constructed without building consent first being obtained.

The houseboat

The houseboat was constructed on four rota-moulded pontoons 6m long and 450mm in diameter.  A combination of timber and stainless steel strapping connect the pontoons.  The “deck” or building platform on the pontoons is constructed from tongue and groove timber, and the walls are corrugated iron attached to laminated timber beams.  

The houseboat is fitted with a kitchen bench and sink, a shower unit, vanity and toilet.  There is an external water heater, along with plumbing for kitchen, toilet and bathroom water supply and waste pipes.  It was being used as temporary accommodation for family members and was located on dry land.


The determination considered the houseboat is a structure, and was therefore a ‘building’ for the purpose of the Act unless it came within one of the exceptions listed in section 9 as a “vessel, boat, ferry or craft used in navigation…”.

The Act does not require a means of propulsion for the houseboat to be considered a ‘vessel’ or ‘boat’, and it was accepted that the houseboat can float.  However, the test for whether the houseboat is not a building has a further requirement, being that it is “used in navigation”.

While the houseboat may be able to be repositioned to a new location across sheltered water, the determination concluded that the users of the houseboat are not likely to be travelling across water or changing the site of the houseboat to be in the water on a frequent basis (if at all); its primary use in the long term is for residential purposes on dry land as opposed to being used in navigation on a water body.  

Even if the houseboat was floating on water in a moored or anchored position, it is not intended to be “used in navigation”.  While the evidence is that the houseboat could be repositioned, this will only occur infrequently and is not sufficient for the houseboat to fall within the exception to the definition of a building under section 9.  It was noted that further guidance from the Ministry is required to explore different scenarios and when a boat, vehicle or aircraft changes to being a ‘building’ for the purposes of the Act.

The decision

The determination confirmed the BCA was correct to issue a notice to fix for the houseboat as it falls within the definition of a building for the purposes of the Act.

Determination 2016/010 in full.

Previous determinations is a register of all previous determinations.

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