Questions about Building Work, Building Plans and Building Lines
Hardly a day goes by without questions from disgruntled homeowners relating to issues with discrepancies with house plans and building work. When I’m inspecting, I often find discrepancies between the approved plans and the built structure.
If you are selling your house, and don’t have municipal-approved plans or necessary permissions, you could be in trouble. If you are buying a house, and don’t ask for approved plans or permissions, you might have very expensive problems.
Homeowners can also be in trouble with the municipality for the erection of illegal structures. Some municipalities have aerial photographs of suburbs taken every four years to check if alterations have been made to homes. In addition to this, municipalities assign building inspectors to monitor developments on the ground.
Legal Implications of Selling a House Without Approved Plans
The law requires all major building work to have plans drawn up and approved by the local authority. Therefore, it stands to reason that every house should have plans. But this is not always the case! A lack of approved building plans is a major problem for many people buying and selling houses and other buildings.
Sometimes people only discover that there are no plans years after they have bought a property. This comes to light either because they eventually want to do alterations, or because they want to sell. Buyers often find that a house they are buying does not have plans. They then want to know whose responsibility it is to have plans drawn up retrospectively (“as-built”).
It can become a complex legal matter if alterations and additions have been carried out without local authority approval.
Are Building Plans and Building Approval Always Required for Houses?
The National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act specify the need for building plans and approval. Therefore, it is the local authority that governs what can be done in terms of its zoning regulations and National Building Regulations. So it is they that give approval (or deny it) for all building work and renovations on all properties. However, most municipalities are more lenient when it comes to minor building work.
The Act states that the municipality may grant relaxation where the approval of plans requires the necessity of relaxation. However, you will have to apply for relaxation in writing and receive approval in writing.
If your property is within an estate or townhouse or cluster complex, you will also need to get a copy of the Estate Guidelines from the Aesthetics Committee, Body Corporate, Residents Associations etc.! Moreover, there may be a list of requirements that ensure aesthetic harmony and good building practice within the estate or complex. Furthermore, you will need your plans stamped and a letter from the Body Corporate for Council indicating that they are happy with your planned building.
How the Issue of “Voetstoots” Affects Building Approval and Plans
The purchase agreement made between buyers and sellers of the property will include a voetstoots clause. Essentially this clause indicates that the purchaser accepts the risk relating to defects existing at the time of the sale, patent or latent (but not visible). However, the exceptions to this clause are instances where the seller deliberately and fraudulently conceals latent defects from the purchaser, that he or she was aware of at the time. In this instance, the seller will remain liable for these defects. But of course, the purchaser will have to provide evidence that the seller knew what was wrong.
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