Last updated: 29 September 2017
If you have a problem or concern about a building consent authority, talk to your council. Their staff will probably be the consenting authority or, in a few instances, have contracted someone to carry out that role on their behalf.
Building consent authorities are the people who:
- assess, process and grant building consents
- issue documents such as code compliance certificates, compliance schedules and notices to fix
- conduct inspections of building work
- where relevant, forward building consent applications to the New Zealand Fire Service Commission (and receive advice or requirements in return)
- collect the building levy.
If your problem is not easily resolved, you can use the building consent authority’s formal complaints process. Ask them for a copy.
If your complaint is not resolved to your satisfaction through the building consent authority process, you can discuss most issues that relate to the roles above with us (excluding building levy information or fees).
Problems with councils includes other options if your problem isn’t listed here, or isn’t related to a building consent.
Key considerations before making a complaint
Prior to making a formal complaint to us you should consider the following questions (and supporting actions):
- Have you discussed and attempted to resolve your concerns with the building consent authority?
- Have you asked the building consent authority how to make a formal complaint to them? For example, requested a copy of their complaints procedure and complaints form
- Have you made a formal complaint in writing to the building control manager at the council?
- If the complaint was not resolved to your satisfaction, did you escalate your concerns to a senior or executive manager at the council?
If you answered ‘no’ to any of the questions above, you should either:
- make sure any formal complaint you have already made to the building consent authority has run its course
- formally complain to council.
If you and the council can’t agree on whether building work complies with the Building Code or the council has made a decision that you disagree with, you may be able to apply for a determination.
Determinations explains what these are and when they might be an appropriate resolution option.
How we can help resolve your complaint
We can receive and investigate complaints that a building consent authority has either:
- failed, or is failing, to properly perform its statutory functions under the Building Act (without good reason)
- negligently performed its functions.
We do not provide legal advice or award financial compensation if your complaint is upheld. We have no legal powers to require councils to pay a financial penalty if the complaint is upheld. There is also no cost for making a complaint.
You could contact a lawyer or seek free advice from your local community law centre
The length of time taken to resolve your complaint depends on:
- the nature and complexity of your complaint
- the actions already taken to try to resolve it
- the time each party takes to respond to our enquiries.
Some complaints can take only a matter of weeks to resolve. However, if we need to work with other people to resolve your complaint it may take longer.
As the complainant, you can assist the timeliness of complaint resolution by:
- completing the complaint application form as comprehensively as possible
- clearly explaining your concerns, rather than just referring to documents you are supplying
- supporting your application with as much evidence as possible (for example, copies of previous correspondence with the building consent authority).
We will regularly update you on progress wherever possible. This could be by phone, email or letter.
We will do our best to ensure you are satisfied with the complaint investigation.
If you are not satisfied you could contact other organisations. For example, the Office of the Ombudsman can review and investigate how central and local government decisions are made.
Other government departments may also be relevant and can be contacted through the New Zealand Government website portal.
Once we receive your written complaint application we will:
- acknowledge receipt of the application
- let you know in writing whether we are accepting or declining your application, which may require us to investigate further
- notify the building consent authority concerned, providing them with a copy of the complaint and all relevant documents
- ask the building consent authority to provide us with a copy of their files and information relating to your complaint, or building consent documents (this is to ensure we can properly enquire into your complaint).
You should include as much information as possible in your complaint application. We normally base our initial assessment on the documents and not on interviews with the complainant or council staff. This speeds up the process and ensures we base our decision on whether to proceed on documented evidence.
We may decline taking your complaint any further because:
- it relates to matters outside our jurisdiction (for example, town planning or resource consent matters, quality of customer service received. We will direct you to the appropriate agency, including the council in question)
- the matter at issue can be addressed through a determination
- we consider it frivolous or vexatious.
If the complaint is accepted for further consideration, we will investigate the matter using powers provided by the Building Act.
Our investigation may involve:
- inviting you to provide further supporting information or documents that you may not have already supplied
- meeting separately with you and building consent authority officials to discuss aspects of your complaint and to obtain additional understanding
- issuing a draft decision for the parties to formally respond to, and offering the opportunity to provide submissions.
Possible outcomes of the complaints process
Once we have investigated your complaint, the outcome might be:
- your complaint is upheld and either:
- we give the building consent authority guidance and advice to avoid the situation happening again
- we increase our monitoring and review of the building consent authority (such as a technical review, special accreditation assessment or notifying the building consent authority accreditation body IANZ)
- we take disciplinary action against the building consent authority
- your complaint is not upheld because:
- we recommended you apply to us for a determination instead (legally binding legal decision on a technical Building Code compliance matter)
- you have provided inaccurate or incomplete information
- we think it is a minor performance issue, and not a failure or negligence of the council's building control functions.
To discuss any concerns before submitting a formal complaint, contact our Determinations team.
Completing the complaint form
Complaints should be made in writing on our complaint form.
Checklist for completing the complaint form
Your complaint form should include:
- your name and contact details (including postal address, phone and email)
- details of your complaint and the council involved, including all parties involved and the roles they played (who, what, when and dates)
- the building consent authority function you have concerns about and why (there is a list in part four of the complaints form)
- all relevant supporting information and documents to substantiate your complaint, itemised (for example, copies of all relevant previous correspondence with the council, building consent documents, code compliance certificates, notices to fix)
- details of the steps or actions you have already taken to try to resolve your complaint (include who you have been dealing with at the building consent authority about your complaint, a record of conversations and copies of all relevant correspondence, including letters, emails and faxes)
- any other information you think will help explain your circumstances
- an indication of any outcome you would like to see as part of the resolution of your complaint (we have no legal powers to require a building consent authority to pay money if your complaint is upheld, as outlined in part 8 of the complaint application form)
- your signature, confirming your complaint
- an undertaking that all the information you have supplied in support of your complaint is true, correct and complete.
Before making a complaint, have a look at our guidance. It includes information about completing the form and documentation to include.
Send your completed complaint form to our Determinations team
Other checks on building consent authorities
Accreditation and registration
We have an accreditation and registration scheme to help ensure building consent authorities have the necessary skills and resources to check that building work meets legal requirements. As part of the scheme, building consent authorities are audited by International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) to make sure they are working to the standards set. These audits may take the form of either:
- a full technical audit of all building control operations every two years
- a targeted special assessment audit undertaken at the direction of IANZ, the building consent authority or us.
BCA accreditation and registration explains the scheme further.
We also carry out technical reviews, to see whether a building consent authority is properly performing its functions and exercising its powers under the Building Act. Reviews help to:
- monitor a building consent authority’s performance
- enhance the performance of building control activities
- communicate appropriate systems and processes for building control operations
- ensure building consent authorities fulfil their obligations under the Building Act and Regulations.
Technical reviews also examine whether building consent authorities have appropriate operational systems and resources to perform building control work effectively and efficiently.
Technical reviews has more information.