Dangerous and insanitary buildings


What is considered a "dangerous" building?

  • Older buildings that are empty and have not been maintained, or,
  • Are being used for a purpose they were not originally designed for (such as a house being used for transient accommodation as a backpackers), or,
  • Have suffered a structural failure or are in a state of disrepair which means they could collapse (such as a verandah attached to the front of a building where the turnbuckle supports are badly rusted through).

What is considered an "insanitary" building?

  • Would need to be without adequate sanitary facilities such as toilets or adequate washing and bathing facilities such as wash-hand basins and showers/baths

  • Have no potable water supply for drinking or a hot water supply.

What should I do if I think my building is dangerous or insanitary?

A building owner is legally responsible to ensure the maintenance and compliance of their building. As the building owner we suggest you employ a subject matter expert (eg a building surveyor) to inspect the building and advise you in the first instance. If your expert confirms they consider the building is dangerous or insanitary then you should take immediate steps to make your building safe. If your building is occupied, you need to take action to ensure the people using the building are safe. That may mean having to evacuate the building where there is a serious problem and immediate danger to people until such time it can be made safe or ensuring anyone using the building is not able to access the dangerous or insanitary part of the building.​

If you need to undertake remedial work then you may need a building consent. Your expert will be able to advise you or you can contact the Council's Building Unit at building@hcc.govt.nz phone 07 8386677.


I've seen a building that I think may be dangerous or insanitary and I am concerned that people could be in danger. What should I do?

Contact the Council's Building Unit at building@hcc.govt.nz or phone 07 8386677 and outline your concern.​

Our team will investigate your concern and visit the building to ascertain if there is a safety matter to be addressed. If there is a safety matter, the owner will be required to make the building safe.


I am interested in purchasing or renting a building, how would I know if it might be dangerous or insanitary?

First impressions count, so if it doesn't look right to you then it probably isn't. We suggest investigate further and getting an expert to advise you. You would not necessarily know if a building is dangerous or insanitary but there are some common things you could look for.

If a commercial building has been vacant for a long time it may have had little or no maintenance and will have deteriorated. If left unchecked and not maintained, fire safety systems such as fire alarms may not work and should be checked by an expert before the building is occupied.

If the building has a warrant of fitness certificate then this should be hanging up in the foyer or entrance of the building. Check if the date on the warrant has expired because if the date has expired so has the warrant and the building should therefore be considered unsafe.

Padlocks, locked security grills and similar doors at designated exits from a building requiring a key to unlock them can obstruct people trying to exit the building in an emergency. The building should therefore be considered unsafe.​

Empty boxes, packaging, crates and furniture stacked in exitways are often found in buildings. This can obstruct people exiting the building in an emergency and the building should therefore be considered unsafe.

In rare situations a building may be without sanitary facilities or working sanitary facilities and in that case it could be insanitary and should therefore be considered unsafe. Also if there are not enough toilets to cater for the number of people in the building then it could be insanitary. 

​A link to Hamilton City Council Dangerous and Insanitary Policy can be found here.

Page reviewed: 12 Nov 2021 3:17pm