32. Repair, maintenance, and replacement of sanitary plumbing and drainage

Plumbing under a sink

A building consent is not required for a range of repairs and maintenance jobs carried out by authorised plumbers and drainlayers.

What the law says

Schedule 1 of the Building Act 2004 states the following: 

1. The repair and maintenance of any sanitary plumbing and drainage in or associated with a building, provided that comparable materials are used.

2. Replacement of sanitary plumbing and drainage in or associated with a building, provided that:

(a) a comparable component or assembly is used; and
(b) the replacement is in the same position.

3. However, subclauses (1) and (2) do not include the following building work:

(a) complete or substantial replacement of a specified system; or
(b) repair or replacement (other than maintenance) of any component or assembly that has failed to satisfy the provisions of the building code for durability, for example, through a failure to comply with the external moisture requirements of the building code; or
(c) repair or replacement of any water heater (unless permitted under clauses 36 to 38).

Guidance on the exemption

This exemption enables a range of work relating to the repair, maintenance and replacement of sanitary plumbing or drainage to be done without a building consent – as long as it is carried out by an authorised person (refer to the glossary).

For repairs and maintenance, comparable materials must be used. For replacement work, comparable components or assemblies can be used providing the replacement is in the same position.

Examples where this exemption could apply

Replacing an existing sanitary fixture with another comparable fixture in the same position (eg replacing a vanity with a vanity, or replacing a toilet pan and cistern with a close-coupled toilet suite). 
Repairing a septic tank effluent disposal system.
A section of glazed earthenware foul water drain is damaged in an earthquake and requires replacement. The drainlayer proposes to replace the damaged section with uPVC. This is considered to be a comparable component.
Repairing a valve associated with a hot water system or replacing it with a comparable valve. 

Examples where building consent is required

A commercial building owner needs to replace a backflow preventer (reduced pressure zone device). As an automatic backflow preventer is a specified system and the work involves a complete replacement, a building consent is required.
Replacing a leaking potable water supply pipe which has failed to meet its Building Code durability requirements.

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: