Understanding the impact of natural hazards

When you’ve found the property you want to buy, it’s important to find out as much as possible about potential hazards before you make an offer.

Summary of important things to know
  • Before you buy, find out if any natural disasters are relevant to the property and how you may be able to reduce the risk of damage.

  • If you’re interested in a property in an area impacted by earthquakes, you should get it inspected by an appropriately qualified professional.

  • If the property has been the subject of an EQC claim, check the EQC scope of work to see what was done and seek legal advice before you sign a sale and purchase agreement.

  • This information on natural hazards may not cover everything that is relevant to you or the property. You should always get advice from your own lawyer or conveyancer and other registered professionals.

IMAGE: CRACK

Natural disasters

New Zealand is at risk of many types of natural disaster. Before you buy a property, find out if natural disasters could impact the property and how you may be able to reduce the risk of damage to buildings and land.

Hazards to consider include:

  • landslips
  • flooding
  • fire
  • earthquakes
  • tsunami
  • volcanic eruptions
  • hydrothermal activity such as hydrothermal eruptions, ground subsidence and gas emissions.

The local council should have information on any hazards for the property you are considering.  Some of this information may be available free of charge, or you could order a land information memorandum (LIM) report. Read more about LIMs here.

Visit the Earthquake Commission (EQC)(external link) for more information on what to look out for.

Buying after an earthquake

Even small earthquakes can damage a home depending on its design, construction and the land it sits on. Pay particular attention to chimneys, foundations and retaining walls, noting their construction and quality. Land can also become less stable.

These features can make some homes susceptible to earthquake damage:

  • Houses on slopes with large open internal spaces.

  • Pole houses on slopes with limited foundation bracing.

  • Houses with more than one type of foundation, for example, concrete slab foundations as well as timber piles.

  • Houses with irregular design shapes or several split levels.

  • Double skin brickwork and unreinforced concrete block walls.

If you’re interested in a property in an area impacted by earthquakes, you should get it inspected by an appropriately qualified professional. We recommend using an independent property inspector or structural engineer who can assess and identify any issues.

A building inspector will assess the home, or particular features of the home, and prepare a report for you. Make sure you know what they will include in their inspection and ask for a sample report so you know what to expect. Check that they’ll consider how chimneys, foundations and retaining walls might perform or be affected by a natural disaster. 

Read more about property inspectors here.

If the property has had an EQC claim

Ask the agent whether the home has been subject to an EQC claim. If it has, ask for more information about the claim including whether it has been resolved, and seek legal advice before you sign a sale and purchase agreement.

Get a copy of the original EQC scope of works. You can then check to see whether that repair has been completed. Check local council files on the property to ensure any building or construction work has appropriate consents, and ask your lawyer or conveyancer to review these too.

If a property with an EQC claim is being sold and the parties have agreed they want EQC to settle any outstanding claims with the buyer, the seller will need to complete a deed of assignment to advise EQC of the assignment of the claim to the new owner.

Find out about transferring an EQC(external link) property claim.
(external link)

Checklist

Download the property research checklist [PDF, 415 KB].

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The property buying process

The property buying process