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Property Legal Issues

New Zealand - Property Legal Issues

There are very few legal restrictions on foreign buyers of property in New Zealand. If you are simply buying a house with a garden then there are no issues. Those who have permanent residency status then there are no restrictions at all as you have the same rights as a New Zealand citizen. Those who have a work permit or any other residency status will need to restrict a purchase to property and land which occupies less than 12.5 acres. The limit is reduced to just 1 acre when the land is close to a nature reserve or other protected area.

There are some restrictions on the purchase of land which is on a beachfront or close to another water way such as a river or lake. The Overseas Investment Office will need to authorise such a purchase. The same applies if the property is valued at more than $10million or if the property is more than 12.5 acres. The application to the Overseas Investment Office will need to prove that the purchase will be of economic benefit to the country.

In order to make an application to the Overseas Investment Office a buyer simply writes a letter giving all the details of the property, the location and the reason for purchase. As consent can take up to 2 months to be agreed, it is a good idea to make consent one of the conditions in any purchase agreement. This timeframe can only apply to those applications which have been very well put together and which require no further requests for information or any consultation with other parties. If a purchaser tries to go ahead without consent then they could be the subject of legal action or will have to apply for retrospective permission, which will cost a great deal more than the standard fee.

When you first make the application it is checked within five days. This is to determine if it contains all the necessary information. At this stage a fee will be payable and this should have been sent with the letter. The fees can be fairly high, in most cases more than $10,000, so the applicant should be sure that they have a good case before going ahead with the application. The website of the Overseas Investment Office has details of decisions which have been made recently so that potential applicants can get an idea of the type of applications that are made and the success rate of such applications.

There are no restrictions on the resale of property and there is no requirement for a person to be in possession of a visa or work permit in order to purchase a house or stay in it, although without the relevant visa the amount of time you can spend in the country is limited. Purchasing property through a company is only advisable if you are intending to run a business renting out properties. The property purchase procedure is fairly fast providing there are no issues with the property so there is no real benefit for an individual to form a company for a purchase.

The purchaser is not responsible for debts on a property. Loans on a property are in the name of the borrower and when a property is sold the seller has the responsibility to clear the debts.

A purchaser can get a copy of the Land Information Memorandum from their local authority when they wish to purchase a property. This details boundaries and issues which may affect the property. Purchasers can also discuss the property with the local council to determine if there is anything which has been left off the report.

There are no rules regarding the purchase of rural property which are different from those which are applied to urban property. There are not a great number of run down properties in New Zealand and there are few rules applied to the purchase of a ruin. Any building work will be subject to the relevant permits issued by the local authority as with the building of a new home.

Preservation orders are usually applied to buildings which have historic significance and these are rarely placed on residential properties so this should not be an issue for most buyers.

Useful Resources

Overseas Investment Office
Land Information New Zealand
160 Lambton Quay
PO Box 5501
New Zealand
Phone +64 4 462 4490
Fax +64 4 460 0111
Email oio@linz.govt.nz

Read more about this country

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