You have rights if things go wrong – the law provides protection if building work is not done competently, properly or according to plans.

Under NZ law, you're covered for:

  • buildings and building materials — under the Building Act's implied warranties
  • services provided by tradespeople — under the Consumer Guarantees Act
  • misleading claims — under the Fair Trading Act.

Some trade associations, eg Master Builders, also offer private building guarantees that you can purchase — always check a paid extra guarantee or warranty covers you for more than you're already covered for under the law.

Building Act implied warranties

10-year implied warranty period

All residential building work in New Zealand, no matter how big or small, is covered by the implied warranties set out in the Building Act.

The warranties:

  • last for 10 years
  • apply whether they're in your contract or not — and your contract can't state that they don't apply
  • also apply to work done by subcontractors employed by the main contractor.

The implied warranties are:

  • all building work will be done properly, competently and according to the plans and specifications in your approved consent
  • all the materials used will be suitable and, unless otherwise stated in the contract, new
  • the building work will be consistent with the Building Act and the Building Code
  • the building work will be carried out with reasonable care and skill, and completed within the time specified or a reasonable time if no time is stated
  • the home will be suitable for occupation at the end of the work
  • if the contract states any particular outcome and the homeowner relies on the skill and judgement of the contractor to achieve it, the building work and the materials will be fit for purpose and be of a nature and quality suitable to achieve that result.

12-month defect period

The Building Act also gives you an automatic 12-month repair period from the date of completion. Get your building contractor to confirm the completion date in writing to avoid any confusion.

So long as you provide written confirmation of the defect within 12 months, your contractor must put it right within a reasonable timeframe. If there is a dispute it is the contractor’s responsibility to prove that the defective work or products are not their fault.

Example — Builder must sort defective doors

Four months after his lounge renovation, Amesh has problems with the sliding doors leading out to his deck. A mechanism in the aluminium joinery isn't working, making them difficult to open and close. He gets in touch with the builder, Chris, who did the job. If it has anything to do with his work, by law, Chris has to fix the problem. Chris sees the door roller has a design fault. Even though he isn't directly at fault, it's Chris's responsibility to follow up with the manufacturer. He project managed the renovation and sourced the doors. Two weeks later he returns with a different part and fixes the problem at no charge.

When the warranties don't apply

A building practitioner isn't liable if the defect is caused by:

  • events beyond human control
  • accidental damage caused by others — but not subcontractors or anyone that the builder is legally responsible for
  • you not carrying out normal maintenance
  • you not carrying out or arranging to have done repairs as soon as practicable after a defect becomes apparent
  • if you haven't taken your contractor's advice.

If your contractor goes out of business, you are not protected — but you may still have legal rights against the subcontractors.

Example — Peeling paint client's responsibility

Julia is disappointed to discover the exterior paint on her house is bubbling three weeks after having it painted. She contacts the house painters. They remind her she insisted they use a product they advised her against. They forward her emails they sent her, suggesting she choose a better product, including poor online reviews. Julie accepts she will have to complain to the paint manufacturers and that the painters are not at fault.

Read more about Faulty products

Activating the warranties

When the warranties are breached:

  • most breaches can be resolved through the negotiation process set out in your contract
  • if your contractor does not fix the breach within a reasonable timeframe, seek legal advice as you may be able to have another tradesperson repair the work and have the contractor pay the costs
  • if the warranties are breached and the building will not be safe for occupants or lacks the expected quality set out in the contract, your contractor may have to pay you for the loss of value to your home. Or they might have to re-reimburse you for their faulty building work
  • you may also have the option to cancel your contract, though you should seek legal advice
  • you can take the tradesperson to the District Court or the High Court. To be successful in court, you will have to show you have suffered loss or damage as a result of the actions of the tradesperson. The court can award you compensation for the breach.

Implied warranties and defects(external link) — Building Performance

How to identify defects(external link) — Building Performance

Contracts and problems that may occur(external link) — Building Performance

Read about Dealing with disputes

Consumer Guarantees Act

The Consumer Guarantees Act applies to goods and services provided by the building industry but not to buildings or parts of buildings attached to land (e.g. apartments) for residential accommodation.

This means that when you hire a tradesperson, the Consumer Guarantees Act says that you can expect:

  • the work is done with reasonable care and skill
  • any materials used are of acceptable quality and fit for purpose
  • the work is completed in a timely way.

If not:

  • the tradesperson needs to fix work that isn’t competently and skilfully done, at no extra cost
  • if they can’t or won’t fix the work, or it isn't fixed within a reasonable timeframe, you can get someone else to do the work and pass the cost on to the original tradesperson.

Fair Trading Act

The Fair Trading Act protects you from being misled about products or services. It prohibits false or misleading product advertising.

You can also get a refund and compensation under the Fair Trading Act if a tradesperson misleads you by claiming:

  • work needs to be done when it is unnecessary
  • they belong to a trade association or have some industry approval and this is untrue.

Read more about Poor quality or incomplete work.

Read more about Misleading prices or advertising.

Private building guarantees

Some building companies offer private building guarantees which you can choose to buy.

Always check a paid extra guarantee or warranty covers you for more than you're already covered for under the law.