Not all homeowners have the time, desire or experience to carry out maintenance on their home. Before getting prices or quotes, prepare a list that clearly outlines:

  • the work to be done
  • when you would like it done by – alternatively, have the tradesperson give a start date and estimation for the time frame
  • the standard of preparation you require
  • the materials you wish to be used. For example, specify whether acrylic or oil-based paint will be used, with one undercoat and two top coats
  • who has responsibility for damage - check that the person or company has public liability and builder’s all-risk insurance
  • when payments will be made.

When employing someone to do this work:

  1. Request an hourly rate cost for additional or unforeseen work. (Contractors should advise you as soon as unforeseen work becomes apparent and await your instructions before continuing.)
  2. Get prices from more than one contractor to assess the quoted price. The exception would be if you have used the tradesperson before and are satisfied with the quality of their work and costs.
  3. Be wary of a quote that is much lower or higher than other quotes, particularly if other quotes are similar.
  4. Accept the selected quote in writing and confirm the extent of the work quoted on.
  5. Employ members of trade associations such as the NZ Master Builders Federation, Certified Builders Association of NZ, Master Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers NZ or New Zealand Master Painters, as these organisations may be approached to help remedy problems where there has been unsatisfactory work or performance by one of their members.
  6. Only use tradespeople who are properly licensed or registered plumbers, electricians, gasfitters, and so on.
    • Restricted building work (such as major structural work or work on the exterior cladding) must be carried out or supervised by a licensed building practitioner (LBP). You can ask to see and LBP's photo ID card,or you can search the online register to find an LBP, check someone is licensed, or see if they have been disciplined in the last 3 years.
    • Plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers must carry an authorisation card from the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board. You can also search the online register.
    • Registered electrical workers also carry an ID card, or can be found through the online register.
  7. If you do not want to supervise work yourself, employ:
    • a registered architect. You can check if an architect is registered through the online register
    • a designer who is a member of a recognised professional body such as ADNZ. You can find a designer here.
    • a chartered professional engineer. You can check that an engineer is a member of Engineering New Zealand here


Consumer protection

Under the Building Act, written contracts are mandatory for residential building work of $30,000 (including GST) or more, but having a contract is a good idea even for jobs of lower value.

You can download a plain English contract for free from the Standards New Zealand website. NZS 3902:2004 Housing, alterations and small buildings contract is designed for use between homeowners and contractors working for them. It sets out the rights and responsibilities of each party.

For work over the $30,000 limit, building practitioners must give you a checklist and disclosure statement. Even if the work is below this dollar level, they must give you these if you ask for them. The checklist outlines the process, your role and rights. The disclosure statement gives information about the contracting company.

After the work is completed, the contractor must give you details of insurance they hold, copies of guarantees/warranties that apply and maintenance requirements.

The Building Act also sets out, from the date that building work is complete, an automatic 12-month period for the client to identify defective work. The contractor must remedy any defects you tell them about within this period.

In residential contracts, the following warranties are implied and are taken to form part of the contract:

  • The building work will be carried out competently, in accordance with the contract plans and specifications and the consent. 
  • Materials will be fit for purpose and will be new unless otherwise stated in the contract. 
  • The work will meet all legal requirements. 
  • The work will be done with reasonable care and skill and completed by the date (or within the period) specified in the contract or, if no date or period is specified, within a reasonable time. 
  • If it is to be occupied on completion of building work, the unit will be suitable for occupation on completion. 
  • If the contract states a particular purpose for the work or the owner wants a particular result, the building work and materials used will be reasonably fit for purpose or be of a nature and quality to achieve that result.

Building practitioners can’t contract out of this. It applies to the work of the builder or tradesperson and any employees and subcontractors they are responsible for.

The homeowner can take action for up to 10 years after building work is completed if the implied warranties have not been met. Where there is a dispute over a defect identified after the initial 12-month period has ended, it is up to the owner to prove there is a defect.

If a breach of warranty can be fixed, then the owner can ask the contractor to fix it. This includes repairing or replacing defective building materials, including any supplied by the contractor’s subcontractors.

If a breach can’t be fixed or is substantial, the owner can ask the contractor for a payment of damages that compensates for the reduced value of the building work.

You can find more information about these consumer protections on the MBIE website

Many people will be aware that under the Limitation Act 2010, legal claims must generally be filed within 6 years of the date of the act or omission on which the claim is based. However, the law allows for claims to be filed up to three years after a “late knowledge date” which applies where a claimant was not aware of the act or omission at first. There is a final limit when using the late knowledge date of 15 years after the act or omission was carried out. Claims cannot be made after this.