New Zealand Certified Builders says the Government should take a harder line on building industry over guarantee and insurance

New Zealand Certified Builders says the Government should take a harder line on building industry over guarantee and insurance

New Zealand Certified Builders (NZCB) says proposed law changes that will require builders to offer homeowners a guarantee and insurance for work done on new homes and major renovations don’t go far enough.

A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) discussion paper on the Government’s proposed changes to the Building Act spells out the risks and liability issues in the construction industry. It states:

“Homeowners often aren’t aware of the risks of the building process, or the need to have something in place to manage them. When something goes wrong, homeowners may face a long, expensive and stressful process to get compensation.”

Under the MBIE proposal homeowners would have to be offered a guarantee and insurance for all new residential homes, or significant alterations by a builder. But homeowners would also retain the right to opt out of it. The guarantee and insurance could be paid for separately, or as part of the total cost of the building work and would provide cover for 10 years after the work has been completed.

MBIE says this would provide protection for homeowners and provide an incentive for builders and designers to produce high-quality building work.

“Guarantee and insurance products offer protections to homeowners who are building or renovating their home. These can be a ‘guarantee’ or an ‘insurance product’. A guarantee (or warranty) means that, should a problem arise, the responsible party will correct the problem. An insurance product is a policy that will pay out to compensate the policy holder for a loss, and often pays for the problem to be corrected.”

But NZCB chief executive Grant Florence says he thinks the Government should be taking a harder line.

“My view is that it’s good that they’ve had a look at it, but they haven’t gone far enough. The changes aren’t bold enough,” Florence says.

He says the guarantees and insurance cover should be mandatory and homeowners shouldn’t have the ability to opt out.

“The homeowner will be guided by the builder and if the builder doesn’t want it the homeowner won’t.”

MBIE says it considered making such guarantees and insurance products compulsory by removing the ability for policyholders to opt out. But it felt that it would be a significant intervention "that isn’t in proportion with the size of the problem". It also says it would place greater pressure on the market to be able to meet the demand and there are no other comparable compulsory private insurance schemes in New Zealand.

And MBIE says the lack of interest in the market from the insurance companies is another problem.

"Providers have been reluctant to enter the New Zealand guarantee and insurance product market for a number of reasons. Guarantee and insurance products have not always performed well internationally. It is a unique form of ‘long-tail’ liability insurance. Homeowners pay a one-off premium in return for being covered for up to 10 years. This can be a significant liability for providers and they can find it hard to take steps to manage those risks (such as raising premiums or declining cover). Additionally, the total premium pool for guarantee and insurance products is relatively small."

But Florence says all work by New Zealand Certified Builders Association members is covered by the Halo Residential Guarantee and he says such schemes should be industry wide.

He says the fact local authorities have often been left to carry the cost of industry failures like the leaky building crisis is at the heart of the issue.

“The liability that sits with the councils, or building consent authorities, is the problem that’s driving the lack of productivity in the industry.”

Florence says he thinks this leads to building consent authorities taking a particularly harder line with builders and developers to ensure they aren’t legally liable. 

“I totally understand the councils. But we have to change that and improve things in the industry.”

In New Zealand the principal liability rule is that of ‘joint and several liability’. That means that if two or more people have caused a particular loss, each party can be held liable for the full extent of the loss. But as we’ve seen in New Zealand with the leaky homes crisis, local authorities have often been left as the last man standing as the developer and the building company are no longer even in existence, or solvent.

According to MBIE only 40% of new homes and renovations are protected by guarantee and insurance products.

In contrast in Canada and Australia many provinces and states have made it compulsory to have some form of guarantee and insurance, while in the United Kingdom, mortgage lenders only approve mortgages on newly built homes covered by a guarantee and insurance.

Minister of Building and Construction Jenny Salesa says it's important to note that the proposed changes to the Building Act are not final and the government is still considering what will work best for home owners, consumers and the industry.  

"We would like to hear from everyone who has an interest in building and construction in New Zealand during the public consultation process, to make sure we get these changes right. I encourage everyone to review the proposals and make a submission before consultation closes on 16 June."

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

9 Comments

Comment Filter

Highlight new comments in the last hr(s).

Agree. Make insurance compulsory and remove the councils role in the building act. I imagine the costs would be about the same but the insurance industry would be better at accessing risks and the homeowners would have an obvious avenue when things go wrong.
Maybe they could have an increasing excess over time to decrease insurance company exposure - in the first year a 2k excess, 5th year a 20k excess, 10th year a 50k excess or similar.

20 years on and not much has changed leaky homes wise has it. Except it's a heck of a lot more expensive to build your leaky home with absolutely no warranty from the builder.
You'd think spending hundreds of thousands of hard earned/borrowed dollars would see you with some automatic backing and a bit of pride from those who took your money.

It’s just capitalism mate.

I don’t think that is true. Almost all houses are double cavity these days as far as I know. These are very unlikely to leak. Also they are very picky with window flashings etc. but you do have to ask why we didn’t have double cavity years ago - it adds very little to the cost.

@redcows you're sweeping generalisation of the state of leaky homes is plain uneducated.

Can't see the government crimping supply at this point. KiwiBuild is far too important if they are to stand a chance of going it alone at the next election. Can't imagine the Greens will be keen for a coalition again.

More culpability should be placed on owners.
Our system is floored and it's the building industry that cops much of the fall out. Little consideration is given to one of the driving forces in build quality which is the end user. That's not to say end users intend buying houses with potential issues. They are though inclined to take risk, or force risk onto the construction industry. Instead of buying the best quality build for the money, more often than not it's biggest build or best address, that results in compromise of quality given money restraints. If given the option to construct 100% bulletproof buildings every time then that's the only option the construction industry would ever take.
Code Compliance Certificates hold too much weight post completion. It's literally a stamp to say it complies to code minimums on that day. No care & maintenance, building techniques or construction advancements are factored in. A house that completed in the 80's is equally compliant as one built next Tuesday. A dwelling that complies to 'code minimum' ranks equally to one built using 'best practice'. As such, there is no intensive for purchasers or device to enable, end users to seek out 'better homes'.
There should be a rating system similar to a ANCAP which is reassessed upon every sale and purchase. Councils and Government should focus solely on planning and not be involved in the construction process other than providing minimum standards and codes. Best practice should be industry based, lead by manufacturers (much as it is now with BRANZ)
Our attitude is still 'what can we get away with? It's a question asked of the industry just as much by end users as it is spec builders. If there was a rating system declaring quality then that would incentivise buyers to buy better houses and therefor industry to build better houses.

One issue is that the "owner" is a spec built developer. They don't care about the quality - their company will be gone 5 minutes after the last cheque clears. This is why so many apartments are rubbish since cost is everything, and the Council ends up picking up the tab for it down the track as last man standing. Until the liability is placed correctly, I can't see anything changing. Proportionate laibilty8 woudl help, so the last man standing doens't pay for every other fly by nighter, creating an uninsurable risk.
As an engineer, I have had murmurings form my PI insurers already, and they are becoming much more risk adverse and much more expensive.

I'm not so sure 'spec built developers don't care about quality'. Though the line is blurred for some with profits being the motivating factor. Spec builds are able to build code minimum as code compliance is the only yard stick. If a building only has a 1* star bronze rating then the eventual buyer knows that when they purchase. As a result you'd likely find a lift in quality of spec builds. but more importantly lower risk buildings. I'd suspect you'd also find a more relative value on older properties that require maintenance. It would promote people to ensure their properties are kept well and improve our overall housing stock.
Most importantly I think, is that a buyer will be more informed. Should they choose to buy/build a low quality, high risk or poor performing house then the best case consequence is that when it comes time to sell that house the next buyer will also be informed. Currently many buyers are happy with a naive 'she'll be right' attitude toward their biggest investments. That is what enables any would be shonky developer to be exactly that...