Issuing certificates of acceptance
Last updated: 15 March 2016
Information to advise building officials in the processing of certificate of acceptance applications.
A certificate of acceptance can be used in situations where work has been done without a building consent, or where a building consent authority cannot issue a code compliance certificate. Its use is outlined in the Building Act 2004 (Part 2 sections 96-99).
A certificate of acceptance has some similarities to a code compliance certificate in that it will provide some verification for a building owner/future building owner that part or all of certain building work carried out complies with the Building Code.
Certificates of acceptance are based on the Building Code at the time the application is made rather than what was in place at the time a building consent was granted, should have been applied for, or when the work was actually carried out.
Territorial authorities need to have processing systems for certificate of acceptance applications, inspections and grants/refusals. These should be similar to systems relating to code compliance certificates.
Applications for a certificate of acceptance
An application for a certificate of acceptance must be made to the territorial authority responsible for the district where the building work is located.
The situation may arise where a building consent authority that is not a territorial or regional authority is unable or refuses to issue a code compliance certificate for which it granted a building consent.
In such a situation, the owner may apply for a certificate of acceptance. If this happens, the territorial authority should ask the building consent authority for the relevant records.
When can an application be made?
An owner may apply for a certificate of acceptance when any of the following situations occur.
- Where an owner (or predecessor in title) carried out building work for which a consent was required but was not obtained (under either the 1991 or 2004 Acts).
- Where a building consent authority that is not a territorial or regional authority is unable or refuses to issue a code compliance certificate in respect of building work for which it granted a building consent.
- Where a building certifier is unable or refuses to issue a code compliance certificate or building certificate.
- Where building work started or consented before 31 March 2005 affects public premises.
An owner must apply for a certificate of acceptance for building work carried out urgently (see section 42 of the Building Act 2004).
The fact that a certificate of acceptance can be issued does not relieve a person from the requirement to obtain a building consent for their building work. The territorial authority still has the ability to issue a notice to fix and to prosecute.
When a certificate of acceptance cannot be issued
A certificate of acceptance cannot be issued if:
- building work was carried out prior to 1 July 1992 (when the building consent provisions of the Building Act 1991 came into force)
- a building consent was ever obtained for the work concerned (except in the situation where a building certifier or building consent authority that is not a territorial or regional authority is unable or refuses to issue a code compliance certificate or if building work, started or consented before 31 March 2005, affects public premises).
What the application must include
This application must be on form 8 of the Building (Forms) Regulations 2004. It must include generic information as well as the following.
- Current lawfully established use including number of occupants per level and per use (if more than one).
- Whether the use was changed by the building work this application relates to. State the previous use.
- Total floor area affected by the building work.
- People undertaking the building work.
- Reason why the certificate of acceptance is required.
- Reason why a building consent was not applied for.
The Building Act 2004 requires this form to be accompanied by:
- the plans and specifications that are required by regulations or, if there are no requirements in the regulations, as required by the territorial authority (if they have any requirements)
- any other information that the territorial authority reasonably requires
- the charge fixed by the territorial authority
- any fees, charges or levies that would have been payable had the owner (or the owner’s predecessor in title) applied for a building consent before carrying out the building work, where the application relates to work done without a consent where one was required
- a project information memorandum, if one has been issued
- a list of all the specified systems for the building and those that are being altered, added to or removed from the building in the course of the building work, if a compliance schedule or an amended compliance schedule is required as a result of the building work.
The Building Act 2004 does not specifically mention energy work certificates in regard to certificate of acceptance applications.
Where energy work has been undertaken as part of building work, a territorial authority could request an energy work certificate as part of the additional information requirement.
A person commits an offence if they fail to apply for a certificate of acceptance where building work is carried out urgently. A person also commits an offence by carrying out building work except in accordance with a building consent.
Processing a certificate of acceptance
A territorial authority has 20 working days from the date the certificate of acceptance application is received to decide whether to grant or refuse the application.
The territorial authority may request more information about the application within the 20 working days from the date the application was received. When such a request is made, the 20-working-day period is suspended until the territorial authority receives the requested information.
A territorial authority should develop a formal policy/procedure for dealing with certificates of acceptance. The policy/procedure could contain the following steps:
- Front counter assessment - check that application is complete (includes compliance schedule if relevant, use a checklist)
- Receive application (enter into system, time clock starts)
- Check files to establish whether a building consent has been issued for the work (refuse application where there is already a building consent, unless it relates to the inability of a building consent authority that is not a territorial authority to issue a code compliance certificate or relates to public premises affected by building work started or consented before 31 March 2005)
- Detailed desktop assessment of application (use a notes page to record comments/queries)
- Inspect the building work (make detailed notes)
- Make a decision and record the reasons on a notes page, detail what is included in the certificate of acceptance and what is excluded
- Use a senior officer to review the documentation
- Issue either a certificate of acceptance in the prescribed form, or formally advise the applicant that the application is refused, within 20-working-day timeframe
- If the application concerns building work done without a consent, consideration should also be given to whether or not the situation justifies, or allows, a prosecution to be brought under section 40 of the Building Act for building work done without a consent.
As part of this procedure it’s also important to check that:
- all the information has been received and considered - this includes such information as the project information memorandum, the plans and specifications, and compliance schedule information
- all the charges, fees and levies have been paid that would have been payable if the owner had not carried out the building work without a building consent - these charges are in addition to the charges that the territorial authority can fix for the processes involved in issuing the certificate of acceptance.
If the application involves work in a building on ‘specified systems’ that require a compliance schedule or an amendment to an existing compliance schedule, the application must include the following information:
- If a compliance schedule is required, a list of all specified systems for the building
- If an amendment to an existing compliance schedule is required, a list of all altered, new or removed specified systems.
An owner should also provide all information that a territorial authority will reasonably need to issue or amend a compliance schedule. If this is not provided, the territorial authority can request such information from the owner.
A territorial authority may wish to include the following details in an inspection record:
- a description of the building work that has been inspected
- a description of the building work that cannot be seen and inspected
- building work that does comply with the Building Code
- any building work that does not comply with the Building Code
- whether the information, drawings and specifications accurately reflect what is built, and whether there is any variation between the documents provided with the application and what is observed on site
- whether more information (than can practicably be obtained) is required
- whether durability requirements can be met
- whether the building is dangerous, insanitary, or earthquake-prone.
Photographs can provide a useful record of the inspection.
Issuing a certificate of acceptance
Only a territorial authority can issue a certificate of acceptance and only if it is satisfied to the best of its knowledge and belief and on reasonable grounds that, insofar as it can ascertain, the building work complies with the Building Code.
A certificate of acceptance must be issued on Form 9 of the Building (Forms) Regulations 2004. It must include generic information as well as the following:
- details of building work covered by the certificate of acceptance
- details of work inspected.
The Building Act 2004 requires this form to be accompanied by the compliance schedule for the building (if there is one).
The certificate will be qualified to the effect that only parts of the work were able to be inspected.
A territorial authority’s liability is limited to the extent the territorial authority was able to inspect the building work.
A certificate of acceptance cannot be issued where a building consent already covers the work, unless it is where a building consent authority that is not a territorial or regional authority is unable or refuses to issue a code compliance certificate or relates to public premises affected by building work started or consented before 31 March 2005.
The absence of a building consent needs to be checked, as owners will not always know whether a building consent has previously been issued for the work.
Considerations for implementation
- Has a procedure been established for processing an application for a certificate of acceptance? (This process will be similar to that required for a building consent application.)
- Has a procedure been established for undertaking inspections where an application for a certificate of acceptance has been received?
- Does the process include a peer review from a senior colleague/manager?
- Does the certificate of acceptance process include a check of the property file to ensure that no consent has already been issued for the building work?
- Does the certificate of acceptance process include a check of the compliance schedule?