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Consent advice recommended on ‘tiny houses’ or cabins

23 June 2021

Council encourages anyone looking at purchasing or building a ‘tiny house’ to get in touch first for clarity on whether the structure is deemed a vehicle or a building under the Building Act.

“If a structure has wheels on the side, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a vehicle,” says Council’s building services manager Ian Petty.

“Some buildings may still be exempt from the requirement for a building consent if they meet one of the exemptions in Schedule 1 of the Building Act, however these exemptions can be convoluted and easily misinterpreted.”

Council’s building team can give advice on the Schedule 1 exemptions to assist anyone contemplating a small building on their land. If a cabin or tiny house meet the exemptions, they can be placed on a section to provide additional accommodation such as a sleep out.

“However there are caveats that limit the use, such as their own height off a boundary and they also must meet the district plan distances from boundary and site coverage rules.  If those rules aren’t met, a resource consent may still be required, even if exempt from building consent,” Mr Petty said.

Non-complying cabins or tiny homes usually come to Council’s attention after complaints from neighbours which may then lead to an inspection.

“If we find it’s legal and meets both the Building Act and Resource Management Act criteria, we can dismiss the complaints. If not, we’re required to take enforcement action and the cabin may have to be moved or taken off the property.”

Mr Petty said cabins were often advertised as an affordable alternative to getting consent and constructing a building but that was often not the case.

“Council is aware of 48m2 buildings that sell for $150,000.  This is a cost of $3125 per square metre compared to new build costs of around $2000 per square.  So if you have the land, constructing through a building consent process is a more robust and future-proofed option,” he said.

“This is why we recommend getting in touch with us early in the planning phase, to avoid making a potentially costly mistake. Council doesn’t make people obtain building consents where the work is exempt under Schedule 1, but we will enforce the Building Act if it’s not.  We’d rather advise than enforce.”