NAI Harcourts Logo

Building Warrant of Fitness

The Building Act requires the owner of a building with specified systems (such as sprinklers, lifts, fire alarms) to have a compliance schedule and to provide the council with an annual Building Warrant of Fitness (BWoF) to confirm that the building’s specified systems are being maintained and are operating effectively.

Buildings that contain certain safety and essential systems, referred to as specified systems, are issued with a compliance schedule that specifies regular inspections and maintenance. The BWoF is a declaration by the building owner, or the building owner’s agent, that all the specified systems in the building have been inspected, maintained and reported in accordance with the compliance schedule for a period of 12 months prior to the issue date.

If your building contains certain safety features – such as automatic fire suppression systems like sprinklers, automatic or manual emergency warning systems for fire or other dangers, automatic doors or windows, emergency lighting systems, escape route pressurisation systems, lifts and escalators, emergency power systems and mechanical ventilation/air conditioning systems then it will require a BWoF.

So, the building has a Compliance Schedule but no BWoF? The Code Compliance Certificate is usually issued with the Compliance Schedule (CS) which is effectively the BWoF for the 12 months. This must be displayed in a public place and specifies the inspection and maintenance schedule for the safety features / specified systems in the building. It is the responsibility of the owner to ensure that these checks are carried out by an Independently Qualified Person (IQP). IQPs are persons or companies with no financial interest in the building who are registered and approved by the local council.

After 12 months the Building Warrant of Fitness replaces the CS and is renewed annually thereafter. A copy of the BWoF signed by the owner or the agent must be sent to the local council and displayed in the building. There are fines for not complying with the Building Act and regardless of who has failed in their duty of care (i.e. the tenant organises the BWoF under the lease or the appropriate contracts are not in place, the tenant is not undertaking daily checks) the owner of the building is liable. This is also an issue if either the Landlord or Tenant removes a specified system without obtaining the appropriate consent to do so. This happens more than you would imagine. For example, a tenant removed a backflow prevention device and said that they had permission to do so!

Ensuring your premises or workplace is safe is nothing new. The Health & Safety at Work Act (2015) has not reinvented existing law but is a well needed update to the existing legislation. A Commercial Landlord is considered a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) under the Act and you have a number of duties and obligations you are required to fulfil.

There are overlapping obligations under the Act and simply put safety is everyone’s responsibility.

The increased fines and the new duty of due diligence for officers (which creates significant liability for breaches) means that Landlords will need to be more focused than ever before on making sure that their premises are health and safety compliant. Industry experts have advised us that WorkSafe are focusing on critical risks.

Critical risks are defined as events that can cause grave damage to a business operation, or result in worker fatality or permanent disability. These ‘low probability, extreme consequence’ events can get overlooked within risk management processes because they seem improbable, or difficult to mitigate. It then involves doing what is reasonable and practicable to eliminate those risks. Where the risk cannot be eliminated, it must be minimised so far as is reasonably practicable.

Retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, importers on-selling imported goods, owner/drivers of their own courier /transport business, fast good outlets and operators, franchisors and franchisees; self-employed persons operating a business; building contractors (including principals and sub-contractors) are all PCBUs and Commercial Property Managers deal with all the forgoing.

Is a Body Corporate a PCBU under the Health and Safety at Work Act? Yes, the Body Corporate is a PCBU and has a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of workers and that the safety of others is not at risk as a result of that workplace.

We currently work with HSNZ Limited who undertake regular audits of our management properties to identify and mitigate risk. These reports are provided to the Landlord to review along with the recommendations of the Property Manager so meet the Landlord and Property Manager’s obligations under the Act. This is a focus for our team in the Christchurch region to ensure these audits are reviewed and the appropriate controls are being put in place.

Linda Kuipers
021 220 0599