Key Points:

    • Unlicensed people can erect their own homes
    • But there are a set of conditions which must be met
    • Licensing builders did not eradicate kiwi DIY traditions

    The great kiwi DIY building tradition is thriving according to two experts who say people don't need to be licensed builders to put up the new Bunnings flatpack homes although the retailer is standing by its recommendation that licensed builders erect the products.

    Alan Light, principal of Auckland-based A L Building Consultants, said not everyone knew that the Building Act 2004 had a clause which under certain conditions, allowed unlicensed people who were not builders to build their own place.

    Light said these people did not have to be licensed by the state system to go ahead, potentially meaning they could put up a Bunnings flatpack once they had a building consent.

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    That contrasts with a statement from Bunnings yesterday that only licensed building practitioners could put up the new flatpack homes, Light said.

    "Section 90 of the act has an exemption from the need to be a licensed building practitioner or be supervised by one," Light said.

    "Conditions of the law are that an unlicensed person building a place only builds their own home - not someone else's - that they intend to reside there and they do the work themselves. They must own the place for a minimum of three years and can let family or friends help them build but these people must be unpaid."

    That means restricted building work, such as structural aspects of home-building, could be carried out by an owner-builder, Light said. This clause in the law allowed the great Kiwi DIY tradition to continue, he said, while the wider spirit of the act was consumer protection.

    Inside the new Onehunga Bunnings flat pack home. Photo/Dean Purcell
    Inside the new Onehunga Bunnings flat pack home. Photo/Dean Purcell

    Meanwhile, an owner-builder who is not licensed is putting up his own home north of Auckland and he stressed that the law allowed him to do that and challenged Bunnings' statements as well.

    "There is an owner-builder exemption to the Building Act 2004, as long as you are building the house to live in yourself. You can't build and rent it out. You can have family and friends help you, but you can't pay anyone," said Andrew Paul.

    "Then that person has to be able to sign that work off. You can't do plumbing or electrical, gas. You can build one home every three years. I am doing it myself at the moment," he said.

    "Basically, the homeowner becomes the licensed building practitioner, but it is noted on your property that you built it yourself. Otherwise, everything is exactly the same as if an LBP built it. It still needs inspections and building permits etc just like an LBP to get a code compliance certificate. I work as a builder, but am not an LBP," he said.

    He said he was building in Mangawhai after escaping Auckland.

    Bunnings flat pack home, Onehunga: almost finished. Photo/Dean Purcell
    Bunnings flat pack home, Onehunga: almost finished. Photo/Dean Purcell

    The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says on the Licensed Building Practioner web site: "LBPs are building practitioners who have been assessed as competent to carry out building work essential to the structure or weathertightness of residential buildings.

    "If you're thinking of getting building or renovation work done on your house or apartment, you need to check if it's restricted building work. If it is, you might need a Licensed Building Practitioner to do it," the site says.

    MBIE spells out owner-builder exemptions at this link.

    "The owner-builder exemption ensures the Kiwi tradition of DIY building work can continue. If you're a homeowner who qualifies for the exemption, you will not need to be or use a licensed building practitioner for any restricted building work on your home. However, you will still need to apply for a building consent. You can apply for the exemption when you submit your building consent application. Any work you do will be listed as a do-it-yourself job on your Land Information Memorandum for any future buyers to see," MBIE says.

    Anna Butler, MBIE's building system performance general manager, said owner-builders are allowed to build, renovate or repair their own home if they qualify for this exemption but must live in, or plan on living in, the home, carry out the restricted building work themselves or with the help of family and friends and have not used the exemption in previous three years.

    Some specialised building work must still be carried out by a qualified person including
    for plumbing, gas-fitting, drain-laying and electrical work, she said.

    People also must get building consent before starting and all building work must comply with the Building Code, she said.

    "We'd encourage anyone considering the exemption to first check with their bank, insurance company and local council to understand any issues this might cause in getting a mortgage or insurance once the project is complete," she said.

    Last week, Bunnings announced that Bunnings Trade has sold more than 50 flatpack homes in New Zealand in the last year, with two-bedroom 60sq m models selling from $69,000, the company says.

    The business is marketing its flatpack homes under a brand it owns, Clever Living Co., advertised as "homes that move to you."

    A Bunnings spokesperson at the chain's Melbourne headquarters said: "Locations where Clever Living Co. homes have been built are in Northland, Auckland, the Waikato, Taranaki, exported to Rarotonga, Palmerston North, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, the Bay of Plenty, Tauranga, Wellington, Central Otago, central South Island, Otago."

    Prices include $69,131 plus GST for a two-bedroom 60sq m home through to $113,541 plus GST for the four-bedroom 106sq m not including land or services such as power, stormwater and water.

    Plans for a Bunnings flat pack home. Photo/Clever Living Co.
    Plans for a Bunnings flat pack home. Photo/Clever Living Co.

    Des Bickerton, Bunnings' New Zealand commercial manager, said demand had grown in the year since the launch.

    "A lack of quality and affordable housing options has seen the Clever Living Co. range be really well received as an affordable option," he said.

    Today, Bunnings reiterated its stance on the need for licensed builders to work with its flatpack homes.

    "We still stand by our recommendation for our Clever Living Co. homes to be built by a licenced building practitioner. Anyone wanting to build their own Clever Living Co. home will need to contact MBIE directly for further information on how to do so. All plumbing and electrical work must be completed by licenced tradespeople," a statement from the business said.

    In 2007, the then-minister of building and construction Clayton Cosgrove said the kiwi DIY tradition would be protected under what was then the new builder licensing regime.

    Cosgrove said the Government was committed to the licensing regime, "but would not allow it to undermine the Kiwi DIY tradition of having a go," a statement on April 27, 2007 said.

    "Let me make the Government's position crystal clear," Cosgrove said back then. "We want buildings designed and built right the first time. I have also given the public a commitment that DIY will be protected, so we need to strike the right balance."

    Some in the industry want DIY building work banned, but he said he would not give the sector "a license to print money. However, he recognised that transparency was needed so consumers can make informed choices."