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Dunedin City Council – Kaunihera-a-rohe o Otepoti
Building plan.

Short term visitor accommodation – compliance considerations

If you are currently letting, or considering letting your property for short term visitor accommodation (STVA) you need to be aware of rules that affect you.

Short term visitor accommodation means that your property is available for let for short periods and advertised on sites such as Airbnb, Bookabach, etc. With the rapid growth of this type of accommodation, it is likely there are property owners who may be unaware of District Plan and Building Act legislative requirements as they relate to property use.

These rules ensure that accommodation is safe for guests to use. In addition, short term guests have been shown to create more pressure on our district’s infrastructure and as such the DCC is reviewing the rating categories of properties that are used for STVA purposes.

To ensure people are meeting their responsibilities and not breaking the law the Council needs to know when properties are being used as accommodation, so any effects can be proactively managed. We also need to make sure that standards are met so that guests and residents alike are kept safe and well.

You need to let us know if:

  • you are temporarily or permanently letting an entire house for short term visitors
  • you have built a fully self-contained living area for short term visitors on your property
  • you are letting rooms to more than five guests in your own home.

You may need to apply for a Resource Consent and potentially a Building Consent. If you need a resource consent or a building consent you may need to pay a development contribution.

Below is further information about the Planning and Building regulations. We understand that people can find these regulations confusing, if you are in any doubt please contact us to discuss further.

The District Plan and resource consents

There are two District Plan plans at present. The rules of the current District Plan need to be taken into account now. The Proposed District Plan rules will have legal effect when decisions are released, in November 2018. From November there may be a period where two sets of rules are live while appeals are resolved.

Current District Plan

Under the current District Plan the definition residential activity includes privately owned households which are permanently occupied by families or individuals. Under this definition the Plan also allows a person to have paying guests in their house. The activity is a subset of ‘residential activity’ where a home stay or boarding house for up to and including five guests is permitted, if these are secondary to the permanent living accommodation. Please note that if you have more than five guests at a time you will require a resource consent.

If you decide to make an entire house available to paying guests you will require a resource consent. The District Plan identifies this as a commercial residential activity. Officially, a commercial residential activity is where ‘a building or group of buildings is used for the accommodation of people and which are or can be let on a daily tariff, including boarding houses for six guests or more, and home stays for six guests or more.’

If you separate off part of your house and fully equip it as a standalone residential activity you will have created a second residential activity. The same applies to an accessory building fitted out for a residential activity. Both changes will likely trigger the need for a resource consent. If they are used for a commercial residential activity it is also highly likely a resource consent will be required.

The current District Plan can be found here: District Plan Volume 1

Proposed District Plan

The rules of the Proposed District Plan have to be taken into account from the date decisions are released. This is anticipated to be from November 2018. There will be changes to the proposed plan when decisions are released, but these are not yet available and therefore not discussed.

The Proposed District Plan takes a very similar approach as the current District Plan. There is some new terminology. Using your house for homestays for five or fewer guests is permitted. It comes under the definition of ‘working from home’. However, if you have more than five guests you will require a resource consent.

If you decide to make an entire house available to paying guests you will require a resource consent. The District Plan identifies this as ‘visitor accommodation’. It is defined “as the use of land and buildings for temporary accommodation (up to three months stay within any calendar year period per customer) on a commercial fee paying basis". This definition includes the provision of facilities for resident guests (e.g. playgrounds, spa pools, swimming pools, gyms).

Examples are:

  • motels
  • hotels
  • homestays or bed and breakfasts for six or more guests
  • serviced apartments
  • backpackers and hostels.

If you separate off part of your house and fully equip it as a standalone residential activity you will have created a second residential activity. The same applies to an accessory building fitted out for a residential activity. Both changes will likely trigger the need for a resource consent. If they are used for a commercial residential activity it is also highly likely a resource consent will be required.

The proposed District Plan (the 2GP) can be found at here: 2GP website (link to external website, new window)

General

The district plans are available on the Dunedin City Council web site. If you find you have still have a question you can contact our Customer Service staff and ask to speak to one of our duty planners. If you change the use of property and need a resource consent it is likely you will be subject to the payment of a development contribution. Information about this can be found on the Dunedin City Council web page.

Planning guidance and forms can be found here: Planning page

The development contribution policy can be found here: Development Contributions Policy page

Building Act (2004) requirements

As permitted by the New Zealand Building Code (NZBC) A1 2.0.2 and clause C/AS 2.2.9. a domestic dwelling can be used as boarding house type accommodation for up to five people (not including members of the residing family) and can be treated as risk group SH (see C/AS1).

Sections 114 and 115 of the building act require a property owner to give written notice that they intend to change the use of a building.  The regulations to the NZBC allocate all buildings a ‘use’.  Accordingly the term ‘change of use’ has a regulated meaning which is  ‘to change the use of all or a part of the building from one use (the old use) to another (the new use) and with the result that the requirements for compliance with the building code (link to external website, new window) in relation to the new use are additional to, or more onerous than, the requirements for compliance with the building code in relation to the old use’.

The exact configuration of a house and the number of people being accommodated there will likely determine if a change of use has occurred.  For example if the owner is simply allowing a guest to use a spare room and that guest is living in the house as if they were a family member, using the family bathroom and kitchen, then it is likely that a change of use has not occurred because they are effectively living as a single household.

Alternatively, if the owner has separated a portion of the house so that the guest(s) has exclusive use of that portion, often providing separate bathroom, cooking and entrance facilities then it is likely that a change of use has occurred because that house is no longer acting as a family or single household.

It is highly likely that property owners do not realise that they may be breaking the law by using their house in this way.

If it is determined that a change of use has occurred then building consent will likely be required to make the building NZBC compliant.  The required work cannot be accurately determined however it will often include passive fire protection, fire alarms and access and facilities for people with disabilities.  It is possible that resource consent will also be required, so consultation with the DCC planning department is recommended.

Definitions

Building Act definitions for some of the more likely STVA uses are listed below.

Single Household (SH)

Most domestic dwellings are designed to be used by a single household or family and are usually separated from each other by distance.  The official definition is ‘detached dwellings where people live as a single household or family, including attached self-contained spaces such as granny flats when occupied by a member of the same family, and garages (whether detached or part of the same building) if primarily for storage of the occupants’ vehicles, tools, and garden implements’.

Sleeping Residential (SR)

Others that may have more than one purpose are classified as Sleeping Residential.  These buildings may be multi-unit dwellings, flats or apartments.  The definition for these is ‘attached and multi-unit residential dwellings, including household units attached to spaces or dwellings with the same or other uses, such as caretakers’ flats, and residential accommodation above a shop’.

Sleeping Accommodation (SA)

The last category of STVA buildings are defined as Sleeping Accommodation.  These are motels, hotels, hostels, boarding houses, clubs (residential), boarding schools, dormitories, halls or wharenui. The definition for these buildings is ‘spaces providing transient accommodation, or where limited assistance or care is provided for people’.

Detached Dwelling

Applies to a building or use where a group of people live as a single household or family. Examples: a holiday cottage, boarding house accommodating fewer than 6 people, dwelling or hut.

Summary

The Building Act requires the owner of a building to advise the DCC if they propose to change the use of a building.  In most cases the change will be from Single Household to Sleeping Residential.  In this type of change of use, the Building Act requires that the owner advises of a change of use. However, when the change of use involves less than five guests and where acceptable solutions to fire documents meet the requirements of the building code, there is provision for houses defined as Sleeping Residential to be used as Single Household. To reach this agreement each property needs to be assessed on its specific circumstances. Once it is ascertained the house meets the requirements the building services unit will treat the house as a Single Household.

Further information about the Building Act can be found here: Building code page (link to external website, new window).

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