The term “Safe and Sanitary” came into existence after the first Building Act was introduced in 1992. There were specific sections in that Act which made it clear that:
· Almost all building work required a building consent (there were exceptions, but they were seldom relevant to domestic housing)
· A building consent could not be issued retrospectively.
Although Territorial Authorities (Councils) could not “legitimise” works which had been undertaken without a building permit or consent, even if the work had been done well, the Act did allow them to declare buildings unsafe or insanitary, if the work had been done badly enough. Based on this provision, it became acceptable to declare the opposite: if the unauthorised works had been reasonably well done, you could get a report which stated they were “safe and sanitary” (i.e. not dangerous or insanitary).
Many members of the public who owned buildings which had work done (including the construction of the complete building) without a building permit or building consent believed that they could get such “illegal” or “unauthorised” works legitimized by obtaining a “Safe and Sanitary Report”. This was wishful thinking and simply not true. All any “safe and sanitary” report could do was to put on file a letter or report which acknowledged the works were not dangerous or insanitary. The acceptance and filing of such reports was at the discretion of the Council.
Councils have never liked illegal work and generally did not preclude the possibility of taking enforcement steps at some stage, but they would accept a report from a suitably experienced person, (often an NZIBS member) and issue in reply a “letter of comfort”, which came to be called a “Safe and Sanitary Certificate”, despite the fact that it is: not a “certificate” at all (it is usually just a letter); limited to the conditions at the time of issue; non-statutory (doesn’t appear in any law) and is not a consent or guarantee.