What does a 'single household' actually mean?

Posted: 31 July 2019

MBIE issued three determinations in 2018 that considered whether a group of people were living as a ‘single household’.

Clause A1 – Classified Use

For the purposes of the Building Code and the relevant performance requirements, buildings are classified according to their use. Clause A1 defines Classified Uses, which are split into seven categories:

  • Housing
  • Communal residential
  • Communal non-residential
  • Commercial
  • Industrial
  • Outbuildings
  • Ancillary

The categories are grouped together based on the activity or use that will be carried out in the building. Residential uses are covered by two categories – housing and communal residential.

The 'Housing' classified use is further separated into three subcategories: ‘Detached dwellings’, ‘Multi-unit dwelling’, and ‘Group dwelling’. The Detached dwellings classified use applies to “a building or use where a group of people live as a single household or family.” The use of the terms ‘household’ or ‘family’ within the Detached dwelling subcategory and within the other Housing subcategories indicates a requirement for a family or family-like grouping for Housing uses. The expectation is that the occupants within a building with a Housing classified use will practice self-care and service (internal management). In other words, they will mainly look after themselves and each other.

What makes a household? 

A point of dispute in the previous determinations was whether the occupants lived as a ‘single household’ and subsequently fell under the Detached dwellings classified use. For example, in one case the owner believed that in a three-storey building, where each level had its own cooking and sanitary facilities, the 15 to 28 occupants could be described as a living as a ‘single household’.

However, a ‘household’ is not a defined term in the Building Act or the Building Code. The defined term ‘household unit’ from the Building Act has been used in previous determinations and court decisions to interpret what is meant by a ‘single household’.

Previous determinations have considered the relationship between the occupants of a building and whether they operated as a single household. The determinations compared each situation to the factors stated by the High Court in The Wanaka Gym Limited v Queenstown-Lakes District Council decision:

  • Does the number of occupants vary?
  • Do large numbers of people occupy the building?
  • Is there a significant degree of restriction on the occupants?
  • Are the stays relatively short term?
  • Is there a lack of connection with the other occupants and no agreement to live together?
  • Is the purpose of the building commercial rather than domestic?

These factors are not exhaustive and each situation needs to be assessed on its own facts. Where these factors were answered positively in the previous determinations and in the Wanaka Gym case, the occupants in those buildings could not be described as a ‘single household’.

Determination 2018/015 in full.

Determination 2018/044 in full.

Determination 2018/045 in full.

You can read previous determinations in the determinations register.

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This information is published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Chief Executive. It is a general guide only and, if used, does not relieve any person of the obligation to consider any matter to which the information relates according to the circumstances of the particular case. Expert advice may be required in specific circumstances. Where this information relates to assisting people: