The importance of approved building plans

The answer is yes.

Danie Botha of Wilsenach van Wyk Attorneys explains:

"1. The National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act No 103 of 1977 defines the owner of a house as the person in whose name land is registered in the relevant deeds office;
2. Section 4 of the Act states that no person shall without approved plans erect a building on a property. Section 4 (4) makes it an offence should an owner not adhere to the above.
3. Section 21 expressly authorises a court to order demolition of buildings for which building plans have not been approved.

From this, it is clear that approved building plans don’t need to be a condition in a sales agreement to be a legal requirement. Any property owner stand the chance that the structure, not on a plan, may be demolished at any time whilst plans are not approved, and, therefore, a purchaser will be able to insist on approved plans before transfer in view of the risk of demolition."

Most people will  have a plan approved when a new home is built, but people tend to be less concerned  about having a building plan approved when a single room is added or a garage is turned into a cottage. When is it necessary to have a plan approved for alterations? A rule of thumb is that any change to the structure - even when you just move the front door - requires approval of a building plan. If it needs a foundation or has any sort of roof covering, it needs an approved building plan.

It can easily be argued that one can always have "as-built" plans approved later, if the need arises. It may not be that easy.

Here are a couple of good reasons:

  • If the building does not comply with the National Building Regulations, it may not be possible to have the plan approved at a later stage. The National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act (no 103 of 1977) not only stipulates that no person may erect, alter, add to, or convert any building without the prior approval of the Local Authority, it also sets out many rules as to the building itself.  The amended National Building Regulations and Building Standards act which came  in effect from November 2011 for example stipulates that all new commercial and residential buildings will have to receive at least 50% of its hot water requirements from renewable energy sources such as solar water heating. The regulation also stipulates that buildings should be designed with the region’s climate in mind to prevent the use of extra energy to heat or cool the building. Worst case scenario a building which does not comply with the regulations, may have to be demolished.
  • All building work on a property must comply with the zoning of the property. A second dwelling or cottage may not be allowed in terms of the zoning. Building lines must be honoured. Building lines can be  relaxed, but it requires neighbours' consent - which may be much more difficult to obtain after the building had been completed. The building work may also exceed the coverage - the area you are allowed to build over, in which case the only solution is demolition.
  • There may be conditions entrenched in the title deed which have to be removed in order to legalise the structure. This is a time-consuming process.
  • If the property is more than 60 years old, it is regarded as part of our national heritage and special permission for changes may be required.
  • Often banks request copies of approved building plans before bond registration can take place, because they need to minimise their risk. If a building, or a section of a building, has to be demolished, the value of the property declines, and this means the value to bond ratio increases. The banks try to keep their value to bond ratio as low as possible, to ensure that should a bond holder default on his payments, and the property is repossessed, the bank gets the value necessary to cover the bond. If you need to have plans approved in order to transfer your property, it may cause you a costly delay of transfer.

If you do not have a copy of your building plans, try and get them as soon as possible. This can be done on the 6th floor of the Civic Centre in Loveday Street. If they do not have copies of the plans, you can also contact the building inspectors  to find out if the plans are still with them. Plans approved after 2005 may still be with the building inspectors. Once you have copies of all approved plans, keep them in a safe place - you can not rely on Council to provide copies later.

If you need assistance in to get as-built building plans approved, contact us. We can refer you to skilled consultants who can assist you.

Best still: have those plans approved before you built, and keep copies!

Published in: Linprop news


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