Compliance certificates needed when selling your home

Private Property South Africa
Sarah-Jane Meyer

Sellers are responsible for providing certificates of compliance (CoC), but buyers also need to know what they entail.

When you sell a property you need to provide compliance certificates for electrical, gas and electric fence installations before the property can be transferred to the new owner. Compliance to these installations is prescribed by law throughout South Africa, and in coastal regions beetle-free certificates are also customary, although not a legal requirement. In the City of Cape Town, sellers also need to provide a water installation compliance certificate. This CoC verifies that the water installation on the property conforms to the national building regulations. It also confirms that the property’s water meter is registering, that there are no defects that can cause water to run to waste, and that no rainwater is leaking into the council sewerage system.

Banks usually require all these compliance certificates for security purposes before issuing a home loan, to ensure that the property being bonded is compliant with safety regulations. And, for peace of mind, buyers should insist on getting copies of all the compliance certificates before they take transfer.

Cost

As sellers usually carry the cost of providing CoCs, it is recommended that you do a thorough inspection ahead of listing your property for sale, so that you know what repairs are needed before a certificate can be issued. However, the obligation to obtain CoCs and pay for necessary repairs can be shifted to the buyer, by agreement.

Electrical compliance certificate

The requirements for an electrical compliance certificate are set out in the regulations to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). Regulations lay down many general requirements, for example, only registered electrical contractors may perform electrical work and issue the certificates.

A new certificate is not required for transferring ownership of a property if there is a valid certificate in place that is not more than two years old, provided that no alterations have been made to the installation since the certificate was issued.

Electrical fence certificate

This certificate is governed by the Electrical Machinery Regulations, in terms of the OHSA, and the purpose is to ensure that the installation is safe.

The certificate is required if:

  • There is a change in ownership of a property with an electric fence.
  • If an electric fence has been modified.

Unlike electrical compliance certificates the legislation does not mention the certificate being valid for a fixed period. Once obtained it can be transferred from one owner to the next provided there were no alterations to the installation after the certificate was issued.

The OHSA does not specify regulations for electric fencing in respect of sectional title schemes or estates managed by home owners associations. However, it appears to be practical for HOAs or bodies corporate to have a certificate issued for the entire electric fence installation which can be produced when required in transferring individual properties in the scheme.

Gas compliance certificate

Pressure equipment regulations were promulgated under the OHSA, bringing gas appliances installed in properties more or less in line with electrical installations from 2009.

In terms of the regulations, any person installing a liquid gas appliance at a property must have a certificate of compliance issued for the appliance. The certificate may only be issued by an authorised person registered with the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Safety Association of Southern Africa (LPGAS).

Installations for which CoCs are required would include built-in gas fires or braais, stoves and hot water systems. Unlike electrical certificates, there is no mention in the legislation of how long the certificate is valid for once issued. However, new certificates are required to be issued after any new installation, alteration, modification or in the event of a change of ownership of property.

Beetle-free certificate

Beetle-free certificates are no longer required by law, but are still standard in sale agreements in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Previous legislation required notification for three types of beetle:

  • European house borer (Hyloytopus bajulus)
  • Longhorn beetle (Oxypleurus nodeiri)
  • West-Indian drywood termite (Cryptotermes brevis)

However, there are other beetles that can cause damage to wood in a house. If you are concerned about this possibility, you should obtain a certificate that includes confirmation that no wood destroying beetles of any nature were found in the premises.

If the buyer and seller agree that no beetle certificate is necessary but the bank requires it for approval of the buyer’s home loan, then the buyer will be liable for the cost of the certificate.

Water installation certificate

In 2011, the City of Cape Town Municipality passed a new water by-law which requires that all sellers of properties within its jurisdiction must furnish a water certificate to the municipality before transfer of ownership can take place.

The intention is to manage water resources and limit water loss, as well as ensuring health and safety through not allowing cross connections between storm water and sewers.

Water compliance certificate requirements are limited to confirming that:

  • The water installation conforms to the national building regulations.
  • The water meter is registering.
  • There are no defects that can cause water to run to waste.
  • No rainwater leaks into the sewerage system.

The registered plumber will:

  • Ensure the water meter is standing still when all taps are closed, showing there are no leaks.
  • Check the roof gutters, storm water drains and sewerage manholes to verify that rainwater flows into storm water drains and sewerage into sewerage drains.
  • Verify that the geyser meets SABS standards.
  • Check pipes under basins and sinks.
  • Ensure that all external pipes are properly secured.

Peace of mind

For buyers, certificates of compliance when investing in a home provide peace of mind. The home you are living in will be safe, and your homeowners comprehensive insurance and household insurance policies will cover you in the event of damage.

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