That’s the word from Colin Kuhlmann, owner of one of the Chas Everitt International franchises in the city, who notes: “For several years, the local authority has been keen to avoid the expense of extending municipal services to new developments at the margins of the city, and has encouraged the densification of existing suburbs instead.
“Indeed, homeowners were encouraged to build a ‘second dwelling’ such as a cottage or a granny flat on the same stand in terms of a by-law passed subject to town planning permission. This second dwelling can even be sectional titled and sold off with lower restrictions for stand size and subdivision.
“Meanwhile there has seemingly not been much concern about alterations, which has led to the widespread belief that owners can make whatever changes they like within the existing structure of their homes.”
However, he says, there are definite rules about the number of kitchens or bathrooms one can have per stand, not to mention building distances from property boundaries and the observance of servitudes – “and the Buffalo City Council is now on a campaign to ensure that all these rules are followed, in existing properties as well as new developments.
“It even called a meeting recently to tell architects, town planners and bank valuers of its plans, and following this, we have had several instances where banks have refused bond applications on the grounds that changes made to a property that the applicant wanted to purchase were ‘illegal’, or have delayed bond approval until sellers obtained the proper planning permission.”
It is unfortunate, says Kuhlmann, that many properties that have been added to or altered do not comply with the town planning regulations and by-laws. Owners who have built a cottage but also have staff quarters with a bathroom and kitchenette, for example, may well be in contravention.
“And the situation is being made worse by the fact that there was a fire at the municipal offices a few years ago that destroyed many property plans where additions and alterations had been approved.
“So our advice to would-be sellers is to check with the council and make sure that their properties are fully compliant before they put them on the market. Getting plans drawn and passed if necessary could take some time, but this is a lot better than marketing your home and getting an offer from a buyer, only to find that he can’t get finance because of something you’ve done – or failed to do.”