Due Diligence Pro: Fireplaces and Wood burners

7 June 2023

Things that may come up when selling or buying a home with a fireplace or wood burner. Doing your due diligence when you are buying. Sorting compliance issues when you are selling.

So it is the first week of winter in Auckland. It was a cool 13 degrees outside last night when I started this article and heating is beginning to become more top of mind. 

Fireplaces and wood burners are popular features in homes that we sell at this time of year. They are a bit more work than a heat pump but the ambiance created by this traditional form of heating, whether it's an open fire, a pot belly stove or a wood burner, is hard to beat. 

The most frequent questions asked by buyers around fireplaces is: "Does it work?'"and "Does it have a permit (or consent)?" 

And it's that second question that we are going to deal with in this post. 

Why do building permits and building consents matter?

In this context, the main reason permits and consents matter when it comes to fireplaces is because the lack thereof can have insurance implications.

In short, if there is no permit or consent and your house burns down because of a fire that starts in the offending appliance due to poor or unsafe installation you may well have an unpleasant experience with your insurance company. Yikes!

Frequently, when the absence of a permit or consent is discovered in the course of a buyer's due diligence it is as much of a surprise for the poor unsuspecting owner and their agent as it is for the buyer.

How do you establish whether or not a fireplace/wood burner has a permit or consent?

The quickest way to establish this is from a Property File because if the Council holds plans for the original build that is where they will be.

Need a Property File?

They can be ordered from Auckland City Council here.

But won't a LIM tell you?

Not necessarily. If a fireplace was added after the house was built you should see a permit or consent on the LIM for that addition but if it was part of the original build you would likely just see the permit/consent for the house itself. In short, a property file will tell you a lot that a LIM will not. 

Whose responsibility is it to get a Property File?

Generally, the person who is purchasing.

Most of our sellers choose to (but do not have to) offer LIM reports as part of their property info pack. LIM reports offer a decent summary of the information held by Council about a property but lack the detail of a Property File. For example, you may see that a house was extended and the permit/consent is recorded on the LIM report for that extension but won't actually know what the features of that extension were without viewing the approved plans in the Property File. 

I've discovered that my fireplace/wood burner does not have a permit/consent. What do I do now?

You could remove it  (or) use it at your own risk (not the best idea...)

Or you could get a Safe and Sanitary Report (if the work appears to have been carried out pre-(July)1992 or apply for a Certificate of Acceptance for works carried out from July 1992 onwards.

More on that on this page of the Auckland City Council Website.

For both of these, you will need a Third Party Report from an appropriate business verifying that the appliance is safe to use and complies with the Building Code. This can also be provided to your insurance company.

An example of a local business that provides this kind of report is West City Heating. Also trading as Dr Flue.

Of course, you may discover that your fireplace is not safe and that, while annoying and inconvenient, is far better for all involved than a fire that ends up more raging than cosy.

And finally, don't forget...

Regular maintenance is also an important part of keeping yourself safe and preventing insurance disputes down the track so keep that chimney swept on the regular as well.


Happy selling and buying.


Contact Me