Property Law

Property law and the list of legal documents needed when buying or selling a house seems to get longer and more complicated each year.

We have compiled a checklist for both buyers and sellers of some of the legal documents you may encounter along with links to more information about them.

There will be others besides these depending on your geographical location, land type, zoning, property type and age of building for example.

Whether you are selling using a real estate agent, selling privately or buying a property, some or many of these will be part of the picture.

Take a look at the process of buying & selling a house first.

DIY Property Law Risky

If buying or selling a house privately and wanting to navigate property law yourself, beware - it's not a job for the faint-hearted and the consequences of making mistakes can be dire - with little come back.

Property lawyers are trained to acquire appropriate property reports and legal documents from the right sources at the right part of the process. They interpret, manage issues that arise, liaise with other lawyers, banks, valuers, building inspectors and advise buyers and sellers. They have the legal nous you need to add, amend or delete clauses on sale and purchase agreements.

Legal advice comes at a cost but the cost of not using a lawyer can be far greater. Rule of thumb is to always use a property lawyer. Find out the difference between a property lawyer and a conveyancer.

When buying or selling using a licensed real estate agent, you also have the added protection of the Real Estate Authority if need be.

property checks needed for buying and selling

Did you know that properties built prior to 1938 require an electrical Warrant of Fitness for a buyer to get insurance? Get it sorted.

Getting a building inspection report of the structural integrity of a property is one of the most common conditions included in a Sale and Purchase Agreement.

If you are selling a property, find out what is required to pass a building inspection and use this as your check list to make sure everything is signed off, consented, legal and completed. Being unprepared or uninformed can quickly lose you a good buyer at the point of sale or have dire consequences if you're buying a house.

Legal documents you might encounter

Property Law New Zealand

A word of warning, make sure the building inspection report is posted to all who will be relying on its accuracy. If you are the buyer, it should be addressed to you at your address, rather than relying on someone else's copy. That way you will have it as a comeback later on if you need it. From the seller's point of view, you will know that the company did advise the buyer.

  • LIM – A Land Information Memorandum held by your local authority tells you about the property so you can understand any risks.
  • PIM – The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Building Performance website provides extensive information about PIMs.
  • Survey Plans (Title) show legal boundaries, area and dimensions, including covenants and easements.
  • A Code of Compliance (COC) will be required for any unfinished renovations, extensions or repairs. If you don’t have this, you risk the deal falling over.
  • An Electrical Code of Compliance is required for any new electrical work installed into a home.
  • To get house insurance, Electrical Inspections Certificates are often required for properties built pre-1938. If a buyer can't get insurance, they are likely to pull the pin. Best to get it done first.

The number and range of reports needed has increased with the advent of the Christchurch earthquakes and leaky homes. Be prepared for the things buyers might request.

  • Moisture Reports can be sought to satisfy any doubts about the cladding or moisture issues.
  • If in doubt about structural integrity of a house you're considering purchasing, visit HOBANZ for advice, they are the specialists in this field.
  • Methamphetamine testing reports may be requested by buyers and sellers. In 2018 the Govt level for health-risk contamination was changed meaning very few houses are likely to be meth affected. You only need to test your property if the police have advised you it was used to manufacture methamphetamine.
  • Property Conveyance reports are explained on the Property Law Section of the NZ Law Society website.
  • Cross lease titles and Unit Titles are explained here for buyers and sellers to better understand the difference.

Be prepared for building reports or property law documents buyers might request.

Architectural drawings or other proof is needed if a house is being marketed as ‘architecturally designed’. If your house has not been designed by a registered architect, it is not deemed architecturally designed for marketing and advertising purposes as determined by the Real Estate Authority.

  • GST - The Inland Revenue Department has information explaining whether or not this will apply to you.
  • Pre-settlement Inspections of the property are done just prior to settlement to ensure all matters are attended to as per your Sale and Purchase Agreement clauses. This includes the chattels. Find a building inspector
  • Make sure you understand the Sale and Purchase Agreement - the Real Estate Authority has a good explanation. Get any conditions or clauses signed off by your lawyer.
  • If selling a unit in a unit title, Tenancy Services provides buyers with advice and expectations for buying this type of property while sellers should understand what will be asked of them.
  • HOBANZ also has guides on Unit Titles for buyers and the Real Estate Authority has a good PDF on this matter.

This is not an exhaustive list but will primarily cover most real estate property transactions.

For professional advice about all things to do with property law, talk to your lawyer

HOBANZ is an incorporated society that has indepth guides on leaky homes and Bodies Corporate.

Do you have the skills?

Selling or buying real estate is a legal process - understanding legal and other documents is a complex task.

In real estate, if things go wrong the consequences can be far reaching. We advise that you seek the help of a property lawyer, even if you are using a trained and licensed real estate agent.

If you are ready to start looking for a good real estate agent, the safest way is to use this free real estate vetting service. They've been in the industry for over a decade and know what to look for. It's independent of any real estate brands and 100% free. Request a shortlist of real estate agents first.

Got a question? Make an enquiry

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Page updated October 12, 2022 by Trish Willis | Member of Property Institute of NZ (IPAC)

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Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.

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