Questions and answers - Notices (Placards) on residential properties

What does the placard on my house mean?

A placard on a building means that a basic safety assessment has been carried out. They are designed to help limit the effect of the emergency on the community by informing people about the worst immediate hazards which have been identified.

Since 4 September 2010 and 22 February 2011 subsequent events that caused damage may mean that the original assessment has changed. A detailed assessment may reveal further damage and danger.

What do the three colours mean?

RED - You must not enter a red placarded building because it is unsafe.

YELLOW - Buildings are considered either suitable for restricted access until issues are resolved or use may be possible in those parts of the building that have not been damaged. Subsequent events may cause increased damage or danger and change the assessment.

GREEN - The building has been assessed and while no apparent structural or other safety hazards are found a more comprehensive inspection may reveal safety hazards. Owners should obtain a detailed structural engineering report. Subsequent events causing damage may have changed this assessment. Because of this, we recommend you still engage a Chartered Professional Structural Engineer or a licensed building practitioner (e.g. a Master builder).

Who put the placard on my house?

The placards following the 4 September 2010 and 22 February 2011 earthquakes were placed on behalf of the Civil Defence Emergency Controller under the authority of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002.

You may have noticed that the placards had a Christchurch City Council logo on them. This was because Council took on the task of placing the placards as a part of the Civil Defence Group (local government and emergency services) during the state of emergency.

As a local authority Christchurch City Council must provide for emergency management in its area and do its best to minimise disruption to the community through avoidable risks and hazards. The Council also has the resources to carry out this task.

The Civil Defence placards expire on 12 July 2011. I have a red or yellow placard. Can I reoccupy my home?

If you have a red placard you should not reoccupy your home until you have completed a structural assessment and required work.

If you have a yellow placard you should continue to follow the restrictions listed on the placard until you have completed a structural assessment and required work.

Please remember - the placards were a basic safety assessment identifying immediate hazards. If you have not had a structural engineering or a licensed building practitioner assessment, then these dangers will still be present and will not have had suitable recommendations on how to remove the hazard. Continuing events may have caused more damage and danger that you will not be aware of unless you have engaged a structural engineer or a licensed building practitioner.

Why is it my responsibility to make sure my home is safe to reoccupy?

Every home owner has a legal responsibility to make sure that their home is a safe place for any occupier or visitor. There are serious legal issues for the home owner if an occupier or visitor is hurt because a building has not been made safe.

When can I remove the placard from my home?

You are advised to not remove a red or yellow Civil Defence placard, even if it expired on 12 July 2011, until you have completed structural
assessment and work. You can remove the green Civil Defence placard when it expired on 12 July. Remember you should first obtain a detailed structural engineering assessment of the building. A structural engineer will check if any further damage has been caused by aftershocks.

What if I think my red placard has been placed because of a dangerous building next door – and I think that my house has not been damaged?

You should not reoccupy your house. Aftershocks are continuing and there is a risk that an adjoining building which suffers more damage could present an immediate danger to life, or cause injury to any occupants of a neighbouring building.

Please talk to your neighbour about their plans to work with their insurer, and through any structural issues. This may give you some idea about time frames around when you might be able to reoccupy your home.

The Civil Defence placard on my home has expired but I have been sent a different placard. What does this mean?

If there has been a new event, such as a significant aftershock, you may be issued with a Building Act notice. Christchurch City Council is responsible for issuing notices for residential buildings under section 124 of the Building Act 2004. This means that your home has been identified as dangerous, earthquake prone or insanitary, and requires you to remove the danger or prevent the building from being insanitary.

By engaging a structural engineer or a licenced building practitioner to assess your home you will be advised on what needs to be done.

If you have not received a section 124 notice, but have previously been issued with a Civil Defence placard, please continue with your work to complete any structural repairs or make safe work. Please do this even if your placard expired on 12 July 2011.

I live in the hill suburbs. I have received a section 124 notice along with many of my neighbours. Why is this? What should I do?

It is possible that you have been issued the notice because structural issues need to be solved. The notice will identify if this is the case. Engage a structural engineer or a licensed building practitioner to assess your home and follow their advice on what work is required.

Christchurch City Council is also issuing section 124 notices to buildings in the hill suburbs which have been identified as being in areas where there is a rockfall or landslide hazard. The notices have been put in place because there is a danger to the buildings from rockfall or land movement and it is not safe to enter. Reassessment and remediation work will be carried out over coming weeks and months and residents will be kept informed of progress.

  • The process for determining when it is safe for residents to return to their properties is still being developed and peer reviewed by an international expert in rockfalls to ensure that it is consistent with international best practice.
  • From the week beginning 20 June Earthquake Commission (EQC) is sending geotechnical engineers from the Land Damage Assessment Team (LDAT) managed by Tonkin & Taylor into the Port Hills area to begin rapid land damage mapping.
  • Civil Defence placards that expire on 12 July 2011 are in the process of being reviewed across the Port Hills.
  • To sign-up for regular updates on Port Hills work, or to ask specific questions about your property, email porthillsgeotech@ccc.govt.nz

Please note: Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) have a separate system of notices under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011.

What happens with the placard system if an earthquake / aftershock results in a new state of emergency being declared?

If another earthquake or aftershock occurs where a state of emergency is declared it may mean that both commercial and residential buildings will be reassessed. These notices will be issued by the Civil Defence Emergency Controller under the authority of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002.

Does Council keep a record of the placard fixed to my house during the Civil Defence emergency?

Council keeps a record of the placard fixed to your house so that the most up-to-date information can be provided when requested (for example, as part of a Land Information Memorandum – LIM).

Do I have to tell the Council that I have had a structural assessment report and give them a copy?

Council recommends that you provide a copy of the assessment and any information on work completed as a result so that the most up to date information is available on the property file.

For example, a report might show that suitable work was carried out after a placard was fixed to your house.

Does the Land Information Memorandum (LIM) for my property need to mention any details of a structural assessment?

If you have provided copies of a structural assessment these will be shown as part of the LIM.

Christchurch City Council recommends that you contact EQC before you engage a structural engineer or licensed building practitioner. If you are currently working through EQC processes the engineer or builder will need to be EQC approved.