Many commercial and multi-residential buildings require an annual building warrant of fitness (BWOF) to prove that the building’s safety systems have been maintained and inspected. The BWOF is obtained by the building owner and provided to the Council, and must be displayed in the building in a visible place at all times.
Building Warrant of Fitness
The name “Building Warrant of Fitness” can be misleading, because there is no obligation to inspect the building as a whole, and the document makes no statement as to the fitness of the building itself. Rather, it refers only to procedures listed in the compliance schedule that relate to specified systems in the building.
The Building Act 2004 (“the Act”) provides that a building other than a single household unit requires a compliance schedule if it has one or more specified systems. This means most homes will be exempt, but any building that has more than one household (such as an apartment or townhouse) or any building that includes other non-residential uses must have a compliance schedule and annual BWOF, if it contains a specified system. The compliance schedule will state and describe each of the specified systems, state the performance standards, and describe the inspection, maintenance and reporting procedures to be followed in respect of each of those specified systems.
A specified system is a system or feature contained in or attached to the building which contributes to the proper functioning of the building, and has been declared by the Governor General to be a specified system for the purposes of the Act. Specified systems include (amongst other things): fire suppression systems (sprinklers); automatic or manual emergency warning systems for fire or other dangers (alarms); electromagnetic automatic doors or windows; emergency lights; riser mains for use by fire services; lifts, escalators and travellators; air conditioning systems; smoke control systems; cable cars; and in some circumstances that typically relate to fire escape, they include smoke separations; fire separations; final exits and communication signs.
Independently Qualified Person
To complete the BWOF an owner will need to obtain certificates of compliance from an independently qualified person who can certify that the inspection, maintenance, and reporting procedures stated in the compliance schedule have been fully complied with during the previous 12 months. Typically this will include certification that any remedial action that may have been needed has been completed. Larger buildings may require several certificates for different specified systems. In addition to these annual inspections, some owners may still be required to carry out minor inspections that are specified to occur daily, weekly or monthly.
For newer buildings, compliance schedules are typically issued as part of the building consent process, however all buildings must still comply. If a building requires a compliance schedule and does not have one, the owner could be liable for a fine up to $20,000, and further fines of $2,000 per day while that offence continues. If a building owner fails to obtain a required BWOF they could be liable for a fine of up to $20,000.
Finally, it is the building owner’s continuing obligation to ensure that each of the specified systems is performing and will continue to perform.