Get covered

Making sure you're covered legally during your build or renovation is essential - both through your insurance and with the contracts you sign with a builder or architect. Before anyone picks up a hammer, check your policy to see whether you’re covered for the extra risks of building, and if not, it's time to sort builder’s risk insurance.

Are you insured?

Get insured while you build

Here's a tip: don't take it for granted that you're covered during your build, because your normal insurance may not cover extra risks such as structural work, or work that needs a consent. Check your policy, and if you’re not covered then you'll need builder's risk insurance to cover the building while it's under construction.

When do I need the insurance?

It’s best if you arrange insurance to cover your build before work starts. This helps in case you need a loan partway through – because you can't get a loan without the insurance, and in most cases you can't get insurance cover partway through the project!

If you already have Home insurance set up with Westpac, don't forget to give us a call on 0800 177 277 once you've finished your renovations, so we can update your policy.

Legal contracts

Do the legal stuff

Here are a few legal bits and pieces you should do before you start your renovation or building project:

  • check with your local authority about the latest building laws and legal requirements, as these can change
  • get legal advice from your lawyer on any contracts, and remember that you can negotiate
  • sign a contract with your builder or architect before the job starts.

What’s in your contract?

The contract with your builder will usually cover things like:

  • a timetable for the work and payments
  • who employs the tradespeople
  • who buys the materials
  • who pays for fees and consents
  • what happens if costs go up
  • insurance and guarantees
  • fixing problems and handling disputes
  • ending the contract if work is poor
  • leaving things tidy when the job’s done.

Your contract with the builder will normally set out agreed stages for payment, providing the work is satisfactorily completed. It should also let you hold back some of the money, usually 10%, until you’re sure there are no problems to fix.

As with any part of the home buying, building, selling or renovating process, please talk through everything with a lawyer, financial adviser and related experts before you begin.

Check out our list of useful contacts

Keep records

Watch the job and keep record of what’s going on

You’ve chosen your contractors, got your site and (finally) got the plans and consents too. It’s time to get started! As the build progresses, keep a diary and take photos. If you’re unhappy about something, raise it straight away. If you want to change or add something, put it in writing. Both you and the builder should sign this and keep a copy (but remember changes usually mean having to change your consents too).

Make sure you keep any guarantees and instructions for the materials used in your home. It’s also a good idea to have regular on-site meetings with the builder so that any issues can be dealt with early on.