Viewing a property file is the only way you can be sure that you have all the information about the property held by the council. Photo / Supplied.
What is a property file?
If you’re doing your due diligence on a property you want to buy, don’t forget to inspect the council file. That’s in addition to the Land Information Memorandum (LIM).
You may ask “what is a property file?” Isn’t a LIM report enough? The LIM report is a summary of information about the property and its neighbourhood, and the file is everything a local council holds on the specific property, but not necessarily the neighbourhood. That may seem a bit confusing. In order to be safe, however, get both.
If you’re buying a property, then viewing the property file is the only way you can be truly sure that you have all the information about the property held by the council.
The LIM report contains:
Summaries of building consent and resource consent for the property and neighbouring homes that the council holds.
Information on hazards such as potential for erosion, slips, flooding, pollutants and so on.
Local zoning information.
Aerial photographs and plans indicating the availability and location services, access to water, sewerage and stormwater pipes.
On the other hand, a property file contains all the property information held by the local council. Notably:
Copies of original plans, specifications, consents issued in respect of the property.
Application forms, Code Compliance Certificates (CCCs), property information memorandum (PIMs) and planning reports.
Information about old issues. The file is likely to show complaints made by current or past neighbours in the area, which can be enlightening.
Any other correspondence about the property.
Why should you get a property file?
You never quite know what you’ll find in the file. But it could avert some nasty surprises when buying a property and it’s best you find out this information before the bank and insurance company do.
The file is especially handy if there are any suspicions of unconsented building work or work that wasn’t completed correctly. Having the original plans to read alongside a builder’s report is handy.
Always get a lawyer involved to double-check everything.
Lawyer Nick Kearney of Davenports Law once had a vendor come to him. When the vendor had originally bought the property, it had a compliance certificate in the property file, yet the LIM report was never requested.
When he went to sell and appointed Kearney, there was no such compliance certificate in the file and the LIM said it was not issued. It turned out when he went to sell that the certificate had originally been put in the file in error and belonged to a neighbouring property in the same complex. The vendor’s property didn’t have a certificate and as a result became difficult to sell.
The process for ordering and paying for council files differs depending on where you are in the country. Check out local council websites for more information.
You can get an Auckland property file, for example, in digital format via email, or a hard copy on a USB drive via post, courier or collected from one of the service centres. It costs $65 for a standard property file from Auckland Council with a 10-working days turnaround or $97 to get it in three working days.
Some councils such as Tasman District Council (TDC) allow you to view the property file at their service centres by visiting the council’s offices. This can be hindered by Covid-19 alert levels so do phone customer service first. At TDC file access costs $10 or if you want property files sent via Sharefile or transferred to a USB you’ll pay $15, plus the cost of a USB stick if required.
It’s often also possible to make an appointment and meet with a council planner, who will be able to help you understand the property file.
Still trying to wrap your head around the next steps? Check out our first home buyers hub – not only will we tell you what reports and inspections you can get, but we’ll help you make sure that all your home loan queries are answered too.