Acquire planning approval before building during lockdown

After spending months at home, South African homeowners may well be considering making some additions or undergoing a few renovations on their property to make their lives more comfortable during this ongoing lockdown. To avoid running into issues later, homeowners must follow the correct procedures and acquire the necessary planning approval before going ahead with any home projects.

“Having approved building plans is a requirement of the National Building Regulations and Buildings Act of South Africa. It ensures that all buildings are conducive to everyone's health and safety. All financial institutions require up-to-date and approved building plans to issue home finance. These plans are also required by the local municipality to issue a rates clearance certificate when selling a home. In short, if a homeowner fails to acquire planning approval, they will run into problems when they later decide to sell, and may even need to tear down their renovations if they fail to meet the relevant criteria to gain planning approval. It is always advisable to acquire the necessary approval before going ahead with any renovations or additions,” advises Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

For those who are unsure of how to go about this, real estate expert, Dietlyn Bekker of RE/MAX Panache explains that any new buildings, alterations, or additions to buildings, boundary walls, swimming pools, garages, Wendy houses and toolsheds, to name a few, will need planning approval. “I also cannot stress enough the importance of submitting plans for any changes to internal walls. If you are changing the use of a property from residential to commercial, for example, you will also be required to submit a plan.”  

Before you go ahead with submitting your plans, Bekker explains that you first need to check that what you plan to do meets Town Planning guidelines and requirements. If you have used a professional architect, they will be able to complete this process for you.

“When submitting the plans, homeowners usually require a copy of their title deed and four copies of the proposed plans, a signed application form which is available from the municipality, and proof of payment for the submission fee. Homeowners should note that only registered architectural professionals are able to draw and submit plans,” Bekker clarifies.  

“After the plans have been submitted, they are passed through various departments, including the fire department and health department. The homeowner is then notified as to whether the plans have been approved or rejected. Should they be rejected, the homeowner is notified as to why and are given a chance to rectify them. Should the rectifications be submitted within a year of the first rejection, usually no additional fee is charged.”

“Though the local authorities endeavor to approve or reject plans within 30 days from submission, this process sometimes does take longer. When an application is approved, the homeowner is notified and provided with a stamped copy of the plan. Only once in possession of this stamped copy, is the homeowner allowed to start building. A building inspector should be called to inspect the progress of the build, either from the start or on completion, so that a certificate can be issued to confirm that all buildings meet the approved plan,” says Bekker.  

According to Grant Gavin, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Panache, a property transaction is filled with various complications that have the potential to delay a transaction. “An experienced property practitioner is therefore worth their weight in gold in ensuing these complications are identified, and dealt with, as early as possible in the transaction.”

Adding onto or renovating your home can add immense value to your home if done correctly. “For those contemplating whether to build on or buy new, I would recommend that they speak to a local real estate advisor to find out what value the addition can add to their home versus what they can afford to purchase within their budget. This will make it much easier to decide on a way forward,” Goslett concludes.  

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