What is a dangerous and/or insanitary building and what role does Council play in ensuring the safety of people?

The legislation

The objective of the dangerous and insanitary building legislation is to ensure that people who use buildings can do so safely and without endangering their health. 

A building is considered to be dangerous and insanitary when it meets Sections 121 and 123 of the Building Act as follows:

A building is dangerous for the purposes of this Act if,

  1. in the ordinary course of events (excluding the occurrence of an earthquake), the building is likely to cause—
    • injury or death (whether by collapse or otherwise) to any persons in it or to persons on other property; or
    • damage to other property; or
  2. in the event of fire, injury or death to any persons in the building or to persons on other property is likely.

A building is insanitary for the purposes of this Act if the building—

  1. is offensive or likely to be injurious to health because—
    • of how it is situated or constructed; or
    • it is in a state of disrepair; or
  2. has insufficient or defective provisions against moisture penetration so as to cause dampness in the building or in any adjoining building; or
  3. does not have a supply of potable water that is adequate for its intended use; or
  4. does not have sanitary facilities that are adequate for its intended use.

Council’s role

Council adopted a policy in 2018 outlining the steps that they will take in dealing with dangerous and insanitary buildings.

When a dangerous or affected building is deemed to be immediately dangerous, Council will act immediately by following the procedures set out in the Act.

When a building is deemed to be a dangerous building, but not immediately dangerous, Council will liaise and consult with the relevant owners and encourage the owners to produce a mutually acceptable formal proposal on how the problem will be rectified.

If after a reasonable time-period a mutually acceptable formal proposal has not been achieved, Council will take further steps to address the problem by following the procedures set out in the Act which may include but is not limited to:

  • Putting up a safety barrier to prevent people from approaching the building
  • attach a notice on to the building that warns people not to approach the building
  • issue a notice for work to be completed on the building that will reduce or remove the danger or prevent the building from remaining unsanitary
  • issue a notice that restricts entry to the building for particular purposes or for particular persons or groups of persons.

If the building is still not brought up to the required standards, the Territorial Authority may decide to rectify the issues themselves. The cost of repair work or demolition work will be recovered from the owner. If Council is to take this path, they will need to give 10-days written notice to the owner of their intention to do so.

Information relating to dangerous buildings will be recorded against the property file held at Council and will be provided on any LIM produced for the property.

Heritage buildings

When assessing a heritage building for dangerous or insanitary reasons Council will consult with Heritage New Zealand provided that the time required for consultation will not materially increase the physical danger to the public.