Who must submit a building plan?
According to SANS 10400, Part A2, the short answer is “any person intending to erect any building”. Any new building and / or any alteration that adds onto or changes the structure of an existing building must be submitted to the local authority for approval.
However, you don't need permission to redecorate the interior or replace broken roof tiles, because you haven't moved any walls around or altered the drainage system.
But if you make changes to the structure, for example, add on a carport, or even just move the front door, you do need permission. Many people these days convert garages into living rooms by removing garage doors, and replacing them with sliding doors or windows. By doing this, you actually change the type of occupancy from a non-habitable room to a habitable room, to which different lighting & ventilation regulations apply, or the ceiling may be to low to comply to the minimum ceiling height requirements.
When you plan a granny flat on the same stand, whether it is attached or detached from the existing dwelling, you must first make sure that your Title Deed doesn’t prohibit any second dwellings, and that it complies with the local Town Planning Scheme.
What happens if I don’t submit a plan?
If you've chosen to build without having the plans approved, a building inspector is entitled to enter your property and order construction to stop immediately. He could even obtain a court order for the structure to be demolished, at your expense, and you would be liable for legal costs as well. In serious cases, you could be fined or sent to prison.
What if no building inspector notices my illegal alterations?
They could come back to haunt you years later and at much greater expense, for instance:
- when you try to sell the house the prospective buyer is entitled to see approved plans as he will be the new owner, and therefore responsible. So, if there are no approved plans available, he may ask you to have them drawn up and get it approved, or he may do so at your expense.
- If you still get away with it and the sale goes through, he may decide to add on at a later stage only to discover that there are alterations that have not yet been approved. Both you and your estate agent may then be gharged in terms of the Consumer Protection Act.
- If your house burns down to the ground, your insurers will pay a visit to the local authority to see what has been approved, and they will replace / repair only that.
- If you install a pool without plans and without the proper protective measures in place, you may be charged for culpable homicide if someone else’s child drowns in it.
- If you decide to add-on or extend your house in future, your plans will not be approved, unless all existing structures have been approved. You will then have to pay your architect and the local authority the fees for those alterations as if they were new, and at the rates applicable at that stage.
How do I submit the plan?
Your architect will assist and advise you regarding the administration and forms to be completed. Normally the architect will take care of this procedure so that he may answer technical questions and make small ammendments on the spot, if so required. You may choose to submit the plans yourself to cut costs, but it is not always advisable.
What documentation will be required from me before council considers my plan?
The local authority / city council needs a completed application form, signed by the owner of the property or his/her authorised representative (proof of authorisation is required) together with a copy of the registered title deed.
(The title deed can be obtained either from the attorneys who handled the transfer of the property, the financial institution that granted a first mortgage bond over the property, or the Deeds Office)
Where an application for approval is submitted by a company or an organisation such as a school or a church, a letter must be provided by the organisation authorising one person to sign the application form.
A CK2 form may be required where all shareholders / members / trustees declare their interest or percentage shareholding in the company or trust.
A copy of the approved Site Development Plan is also needed, if this is required in terms of the zoning regulations that apply to the stand.
A separate form also needs to be completed by a competent person registered with the Engineering Council of South Africa when structural work such as reinforced concrete floor and roof slabs, special reinforced foundations, and so forth are part of the proposed building.
Different certificates or designs need to be submitted depending on the technical aspects of the plan. You should consult an architect or engineer in this regard.
In the case of non-residential developments (for example, offices, factories, shops, institutional buildings and so on), a zoning certificate with a copy of the most recent Amendment Scheme is to be furnished.
Your architectural professional must complete an Architectural Compliance Certificate with proof of his/her registration details at SACAP.
Other forms relating to stormwater disposal and electricity consumption may be required by different local authorities.
Some local authorities may ask for a clearance certificate from their treasury dept as proof that you don’t owe council any monies.
How much does it cost to submit an application?
Fees may vary between different local authorities, and are calculated by the building control staff when you submit an application. A standardised set of tariffs applies when calculating the fee payable.
To give a rough indication, a 3 bedroom house with double garage and double ammenities of about 200sq.m will cost you about R 1200 in Bloemfontein, or about R 2 500 for the same house in Johannesburg. (2011)
Some local authorities charge different rates for commercial, residential, industrial or town houses.
How long does it take for a plan to get approved?
It all depends on the effectiveness and technological advancement of the particular local authority. In our opinion it will be reasonable to expect an answer within 30 calender days for single residential buildings. Commercial buildings that may involve traffic or environment impact studies, may take 6 to 8 weeks if the professional team submit all their details on time.
What course of action is open to me if my plans are rejected?
If the architectural professional did his homework thoroughly, and adhere to the National Building Regulations, Town Planning Schemes, etc, plans should not be rejected. It is our experience that building controll staff will not reject plans just because of a minor error on the plans. They will normally call on the architect to rectify the minor error, and then reconcider the plan for approval.
If the plans are rejected because of a major error, such as infringement on neighbouring property, over servitudes etc, it will have to be ammended by the professionals responsible for the design, and resubmitted as an ammended plan.
However, if you acquire the services of an architectural professional only when the building inspector caught you out half way through the building process, or even to draw “as-built” plans of an existing illegal structure, unconditional approval cannot be expected.
Why doesn’t the same rules apply for RDP housing as for upmarket residential estates?
The easy answer is that a person in an RDP house cannot afford the luxury of double glazing or thermal insulation on the ceiling, while those in luxury houses can and should do everything to accomplish safe and energy effiicient designs.
The new National Building Regulations makes provision for a Category 1 building, which can roughly be defined as any building (even school or church) with no basement and a floor area of less than 80 sq.m. These buildings do not have to comply with regulations regarding wind storms, earthquakes, attack by biological agents and rising damp. The requirements regarding maintenance cycles and accuracy of construction are also more lenient in order to make it more affordable.