Tiny House FAQs


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Tiny House FAQs

  • Buildings constructed as relocatable accommodation are often referred to ‘tiny houses’ or something similar.

    They are becoming increasingly popular, and are often featured in media and on television as eco-friendly and budget-friendly alternatives to traditional housing. They are usually purpose built or modified buildings to provide extra family accommodation, residential accommodation (including rental accommodation) or holiday accommodation, whether temporary or permanent or never used for overnight accommodation.

    Relocatable accommodation may be purchased from a diverse range of vendors or constructed by you.

    They include:

    (a) Converted shipping containers;
    (b) Modular structures (for example Portacom type buildings);
    (c) Purpose built constructions;
    (d) Converted out-buildings (for example garages, sheds); and
    (e) Campervans, caravans etc

    It is important to note that, if relocatable accommodation is constructed or modified outside of the Marlborough region, it will be subject to a slightly different approach by the Building Group.

    Go to the Guide Table that addresses the separate requirements for buildings constructed within Marlborough to those constructed elsewhere

  • The Building Act 2004 applies to all buildings whether temporary, permanent or relocatable. The term of ‘building’ is defined in the Act and does not include vehicles that are moveable and are not occupied on a permanent or longterm basis.

    This has, in the past, been the cause of some confusion as some relocatable accommodation shares the features of vehicles or may have had a feature added to give the impression it is a moveable vehicle. Equally there is confusion where a vehicle becomes a ‘building’ under the BA04. This occurs when the vehicle has undergone some alteration that causes it to no longer be a vehicle or motor vehicle (including a vehicle or motor vehicle as defined in section 2(1) of the Land Transport Act 1998) and it is:

    • Immovable; and
    • Occupied by people on a permanent or long-term basis.

    An alteration could be to the vehicle itself or work that causes it to become fixed to the site by plumbing, foundations or decking or some other alteration. Generally speaking, the test now applied by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is whether the relocatable accommodation is designed for road use and can be towed successfully on a road.

    Simply because a structure is capable of being moved does not mean that it falls to be considered a vehicle under the Building Act. Whether a building is a vehicle will involve a case by case assessment and, as a purchaser or someone looking to construct a relocatable accommodation, it is important to be careful that all the features are in place if you wish to claim that it is a vehicle.

    If you believe your relocatable accommodation is a vehicle for the purposes of the Building Act and Council does not, you may apply for a Determination from MBIE. MBIE will decide if the relocatable accommodation is a vehicle or a building, and Council will may still issue you a Notice to Fix but any cannot take any further action until the determination made.

    It is important to be aware that even if your relocatable accommodation is a vehicle it may still be considered a residential unit or dwelling under the Resource Management Act 1991.

  • The Building Act requires building consents for any building work, including:

    (a) Construction of new buildings;
    (b) Most renovation work on existing buildings;
    (c) Construction or alteration of existing foundations;
    (d) Installation or alteration of existing drainage;
    (e) Connection to services;
    (f) Relocation of an existing building in a new location;
    (g) Sitework;
    (h) Alterations to shipping containers so they may used for something other than storage (for example as a relocatable accommodation); and
    (i) Change of use of an existing building (including those which were previously exempt under Schedule 1).

    Any building work that is exempt from the building consent requirements is set out in section 41 and Schedule 1 of the Building Act. You will require a building consent for any of the above work for your relocatable accommodation (provided that it is not a vehicle that is immovable and occupied on a permanent or long-term basis). If you are buying an existing building that does not have a building consent or have constructed a building without building consent it may be possible to apply for a Certificate of Acceptance under the Building Act. This allows the Council to review the work that was undertaken and, if it meets the requirements of the Building Code, issue a certificate confirming that it does.

  • A fully constructed building that does not need ‘putting together’ will not require a building consent itself. A building consent will be required however for any associated work with the foundations, services, fixings etc.

    If the building has some assembly required then a building consent for the assembling within New Zealand will likely be required.

  • Council’s process depends upon whether the building work was undertaken in Marlborough or outside of the Marlborough region. For work within the Marlborough region, Council requires:

    1. A Certificate of Acceptance for unconsented work that required a building consent.
    2. A Building Consent for any upgrade work required to enable the building to meet the Building Code requirements.
    3. A Building consent for any new work related to foundations and/or services and any other electrical work that is required in relation to the exempted work.
    4. Where an owner does not achieve 1 to 3 above (as applicable), Council will require removal of the house from the property by issuing a Notice to Fix under the Building Act.

    For work constructed outside the Marlborough region, 1 to 4 above will also apply however it is not Council’s responsible but rather the Building Authority where the work was undertaken. Marlborough’s Building Authority may choose to alert that other Building Authority and that other Building Authority may elect to issue a Council may issue a Notice to Fix in respect of the work undertaken within its region.

  • Council typically becomes aware of relocatable accommodation when it receives a complaint from persons in the community, or when it receives an application or inquiry from a relocatable accommodation owner or builder. At that point, Council must apply the requirements discussed in this information sheet to that relocatable accommodation.

  • Some composting toilets usually do not need a building consent as they do not have plumbing or a building associated with them that requires consent (for example they are located in a small outhouse). However, they do need to comply with the Building Code and the designer of the composting toilet must demonstrate this.

  • Buildings used for accommodation are required to be insulated to the standard required in the NZ Building Code. Installing wall insulation requires a building consent, other insulation may not.

    The requirements for energy efficiency (H1) under the NZ Building Code only apply where the energy is sourced from a network utility operator (i.e. a power company) or is from a depletable energy source (e.g. LPG, diesel etc.). If H1 does not apply, then the insulation can be to a lower standard but still must be sufficient to prevent condensation.

    There may also be requirements regarding insulation if the relocatable accommodation will be rented out.

    Go to the requirements

  • Stairs and barriers require a Building Consent to construct or change. They often do not comply with the Building Code in relocatable homes because of the novel way stairs are constructed in small spaces. You should carefully check the requirements before commencing the work, applying for Building Consent or purchasing your relocatable accommodation.

  • Whether your relocatable home is a building or a vehicle, if you connect it to public services to receive a water supply or to discharge grey or black (including sewerage) water. The services themselves and the connections will need to comply with the Building Code and will require a building consent.

    Sometimes you may not want to connect to public services or may not be allowed to by Council (for example high pressure sewerage systems). If you do not connect to public services (for example collect your own rainwater or install your own discharge system) you will need a building consent for the construction of that work.

  • The Building Code provisions for electricity (G9) are primarily based on any electrical installation being safe. This also applies to gas (G11 of the Building Code). Electricians and gasfitters are self-certifying. This applies whether you are connecting to your own power/gas system or to a public power/gas system.

    You should check with the local provider (including lines) provider to ensure there are no additional or essential requirements that you should include in your design to ensure you may connect to the public services. There can be requirements under an ECP34 safety notice to consider.

  • If all of the work you intend to do is being carried out as one project then you can apply for one building consent to cover all of the work.