Advice and Opinion

Building regulations must be checked and approvals gotten

The introduction of the Building Standards and Building Regulations Act, which requires all owners of property who intend to alter their homes get municipal approval for the work, no matter how small the changes are, could lead to some confusion because certain municipalities might, in cases of minor building work, give written approval to the effect that the owner does not need building permission, whereas other municipalities will need plans for minor building works passed through them to make them legal, says Helen Hoekstra, general manager of Atlantic Seaboard Knight Frank SA branch.

Examples of these minor building works could be:

  • a tool shed not exceeding 10 m² in area;
  • a child’s playhouse not exceeding 5 m² in area;
  • a cycle shed not exceeding 5 m² in area;
  • a greenhouse not exceeding 15 m² in area;
  • an open-sided car, caravan or boat shelter or a carport where such shelter or carport does not exceed 40 m² in area;
  • any free-standing wall constructed of masonry, concrete, steel, aluminium or timber or any wire fence where such wall or fence does not exceed 1,8 m in height at any point above ground level and does not retain soil;
  • any pergola;
  • a private swimming-pool;
  • a change room, not exceeding 10 m² in area, at a private swimming-pool, etc.

However, said Hoekstra, it is still required that you get the necessary paperwork from your municipality confirming that plan approval is not required.

This might not seem important at the time one does the building alterations but the reality is that the implications of non-approved building work, when it comes to the Consumer Protection Act, could lead to a buyer of a property possibly claiming damages from the seller and the agent involved if there are any faults with the construction.

Cases such as these are yet to be tried in court but there are mixed interpretations from attorneys, some saying the agent must ensure the seller hand over all plans to the home to protect himself, whereas others underplay the importance of this, said Hoekstra.

It is advisable for owners of properties to do all the homework correctly before embarking on any project and, if there is exemption from having to have plans for the job, make sure all the paperwork is in writing and has all the necessary stamps or signatures to this effect, she said.

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