Sellers: does your home comply with building regulations?

Private Property South Africa
Martin Hatchuel

Not ensuring your home complies with building regulations could cause issues when you put it up for sale.

A recent judgement handed down by the Western Cape’s High Court has highlighted the importance of making sure that the improvements on your property comply with national and local building regulations.

It could cost you a lot of money if they don’t.

In the case before the court (Allen v Scheibert (14136/2010) [2015] ZAWCHC 37), the seller of a property signed a guarantee that stated that alterations done to the buildings had been approved by the local authority - but the buyer discovered after the sale had been concluded that a second dwelling on the property hadn’t been approved, and that it was therefore illegal. She sued, and the court found in her favour - and she was awarded more than R 217,000.

ARCHITECT’S EXPERIENCE

Nick Brits - a principle at Gauteng’s Evolve Architects (www.evolvearch.co.za) - has recently had personal experience of buying a house for the first time.

“When we began negotiating, I asked the seller to provide us with a copy of the title deeds and a set of plans from the local authority so that I could make sure that there were no contraventions of things like building lines and servitudes, zoning, coverage, and density,” he said.

“It’s also important to look at the town planning scheme so that you understand the stipulations for your area, which could cover things that wouldn’t come up in the title deeds - like the maximum heights of roofs.”

Nick said that when he first saw the property, he noticed that a store room had been built next to the boundary.

“That immediately rang alarm bells, because it stood outside the 2.5 metre building line - so there would have to have been an application for a building line relaxation.”

SELLER PREPARE

“If you want to sell your house, it’s a no-brainer,” he said. “The process of negotiating the sale is bound to be quicker and easier if you make sure that you have all your compliance certificates in place, and also that you have up-to-date, approved plans for all buildings, swimming pools, and other improvements that require planning permission.”

As far as plans are concerned, he said, “Your local council needs to have a record of the buildings as they stand, and it’s your responsibility as the seller to make sure that the buildings and plans are compliant.”

If you don’t have approved plans, you’re going to have to employ an architect or draughtsperson (in other words, a planning professional registered with SACAP The South African Council for the Architectural Profession) to amend your existing plans, or draw up a new set, and submit them to the local authority for approval.

“And if you’re a potential buyer, we recommend that you use the services of a home inspection service who’ll make sure that all the property’s compliance certificates are in place, and that the buildings and plans are legal,” he said.

(For more on property inspection services, please see PrivateProperty.co.za: Check it - it makes cheque-book sense.)

(For a discussion of the judgement, and why it was significant in terms of how the damages were calculated, please see Property Law Update Issue 13 – 2015 from attorneys Smith Tabata Buchanan Boyes.)

(For explanations of words and phrases used by architects and town planners, see sans1400.co.za and the South African Association of Consulting Professional Planners.)

Read the judgement here.

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