Latest developments in improving air quality in the Rotorua Airshed
As part of the ongoing effort to improve urban Rotorua’s air quality (which has now been in place for over 10 years), the Council has increased the restrictions on solid fuel heating. For those looking to sell or buy it has become increasingly important to know how the Airshed Bylaws affects you as a homeowner, vendor or purchaser.
From 31 January 2020, non-compliant wood burners are no longer able to be used, and all such burners must be removed as a property is sold. What is not as well understood, is that there are now offset rules that apply to installations of new solid fuel burners. In practical terms, this may be an effective “sinking lid” on the number of fireplaces within Rotorua’s Urban Airshed, and what this means is that if you are looking to install a new solid fuel burner (even one which complies with current clean air regulations), you may not be able to.
By way of recap, any purchaser of a property that has a solid fuel burner will need to know whether that burner is compliant with the current regulations. The best way to do this is by asking for a copy of the Code Compliance Certificate for the burner from the vendor or agent. If there is no Code Compliance Certificate, the burner is unlikely to be compliant, and this will impact what can be done.
Selling a property with a non-compliant burner?
If you intend to sell a property that has a non‑compliant burner, you must abide by the “point of sale rule”. This rule specifies that any vendor with a non‑compliant fireplace must have it removed before settlement and according to Council’s requirements.
You need to be aware that Council will only issue burner building consents to homeowners replacing their existing burner unless the “offset” rules can be complied with (discussed below). So, if you remove the wood burner and do not replace it, the purchaser will no longer have that option. Accordingly, purchasers may ask a vendor to undertake installation of a replacement fireplace, especially if the property has a solid hearth area or other features that are out of place if there is no wood burner.
That process can be very time consuming, so vendors who are removing wood burners need to consider this well in advance and consider whether it is worth replacing the burner rather than just removing it, and also whether other remedial works are necessary to best place the property for sale if the wood burner is removed.
Buying a property but the Vendor is removing the burner?
If you purchase a house that does not have a wood burner and you wanted to install a burner after settlement, you would need to meet the “offsetting” scheme before applying for a resource consent from the Regional Council and a building consent from District Council. This scheme only allows a fixed number of burners in the Airshed area and requires you to find another household to agree to remove their burner before you could install your own. This is effectively a “1 out, 1 in”. However, an additional complication is that the approval of the offset is at Council’s discretion and is not automatic. Given the Council’s overall aim of improving air quality, the Council may exercise their discretion not to allow the offset.
To avoid having to try to use the offset scheme, if you are looking at a property where the burner is to be removed at the time of sale, you could seek to negotiate with the vendor to have them replace the non-compliant burner with a compliant one (with a code of compliance certificate) as a term of settlement, or you may want to specify what works need to be done when the burner is removed if there will be a large empty hearth feature on the property.
Purchasers may still be entitled to a Hot Swap Loan for alternative heating such as a heat pump. Proof of the removal of the old burner to council standards is necessary, and you will have 6 months from the date of settlement to apply for the Loan. Further details of the Hot Swap Loan and its conditions can be found on the Council’s website.
For More Information
If you have any enquiries or any queries regarding fireplaces and how these should be dealt with when buying or selling a property, please do not hesitate to contact us on 07 348 2030 or email Helen Nathan at firstname.lastname@example.org.