Understanding the “Right of Way” and Fire Ratings in Residential Housing

9 Nov, 2023 |

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Navigating the complexities of "right of way" and fire ratings? Did you know the term 'Road' doesn't have a clear definition in the Building Act? Whether it's the traditional right of passage or the NZTA’s broader definition, the context can change fire rating requirements..

Defining the ‘Relevant Boundary’
When navigating the intricacies of housing regulations and safety measures, understanding terminology is crucial. The term “relevant boundary” often pops up in the discussion around fire ratings. It pertains to the boundary of a plot that’s distinct from the primary property under consideration. The definition becomes a bit intricate when looking at external walls of a building, where the relevant boundary is the nearest one. The caveat, however, is when the other property is a road, railway line, or public open space, the relevant boundary shifts to the boundary on the other side of that property. Typically, no fire rating is needed based on this definition.

Unraveling the Definition of ‘Road’
A primary source of confusion in this arena is the term ‘Road’. Though it might seem straightforward, the Building Act does not provide a clear definition. According to NZTA, the term ‘road’ encapsulates a broad scope. The traditional English common law definition bases it on the provision of a ‘right of way’ or ‘right of passage’ to the public by the property’s owner. Here, the ownership status, whether public or private, isn’t the decisive factor; it’s the permission granted for public usage.

NZTA’s Take on ‘Road’
The NZTA provides a more expansive definition for enforcement purposes, focusing on places that the public can access. However, mere physical accessibility doesn’t suffice. Demonstrable public use is a must. This brings us to the often-debated topic of small private ‘Right of ways’. Some of these might be guarded with security gates and are accessible solely to a select group of homeowners. In such instances, the fire rating is typically applicable to the inner boundary line. Conversely, for larger developments where driveways become public property open for general use, the fire rating takes the ‘far’ boundary into consideration.

Seeking Expertise for Clarity
Treading through the maze of council regulations, especially when it involves safety measures like fire ratings, can be daunting. Ambiguities in terms like ‘road’ further complicate matters. It’s advisable to consult firms well-versed in council legislation and fire ratings to ensure compliance and safety.

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