Hardie Minute

Although the seller is not obliged to provide copies of approved building plans to prospective buyers, it is also the buyer’s right to ask for them. It can be tricky to obtain the necessary building plans unless provided by the seller. For this reason, buyers might request to include a clause to that effect in the offer to purchase (OTP).

“Making sure that you have approved plans before you start the process of selling your property is smart,” says Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa. “It proves to prospective buyers that what they see is what they’re getting. It is also a useful strategy for preventing problems from arising later in the process, which could potentially stop the transaction before it can be finalised,” he notes.

All homeowners should have a copy of the plans for the home on hand. If this is not the case, Goslett explains that if plans exist for the home, then these can usually be acquired from your local municipality. “Sometimes, though, municipalities do not have copies of plans on record because something could have happened to their records (e.g. there might have been a fire). Occasionally, plans might have never been drawn up because, for example, the building is very old and has never been altered,” Goslett explains.

When this happens, and a homeowner is unable to acquire the building plans for their home, it then becomes the current owner’s responsibility to have plans drawn up and submitted for approval.

On the other hand, Goslett warns that if the building plans that a homeowner receives from the municipality does not fully resemble the buildings on the property, then the homeowner will need to get new plans drawn up and submitted for approval if these differences are considered major alterations.

As a general principle, any major structural changes will mean that plans must be submitted to the municipality before building can proceed. However, minor building work does not need planning permission. Some examples include:

Outdoor structures like a garden shed, a pergola, or a gazebo that are less than 5 m2
Repairing or replacing your roof with similar materials
Internal alterations that do not affect the structural safety of the building

If the changes are significant structural alterations (for example, if there is an additional room), then plans need to have been submitted. If not, the responsibility then lies on the current homeowner to have new plans drawn up and approved to reflect the changes. “The municipality could either reject the plans and/or penalise the owner and could even demand that any illegal structures be demolished. That is why many buyers will insist that the seller provides up-to-date approved plans of the property before they will agree to sign an OTP,” says Goslett.

Those who are trying to sell without the necessary planning approval are encouraged to contact their nearest RE/MAX office for some advice on how to address this. “As industry experts, real estate professionals are there to guide buyers and sellers through every step of the home buying and selling journey. Having a reliable RE/MAX agent on your side can help you to navigate through the challenging aspects of any home sale and will make the process a whole lot smoother for you,” he says.

Additional information:

Agreements of sale may provide for up to five different types of compliance certificates to be obtained by the seller (unless otherwise agreed upon). These certificates must be provided to the conveyancer before the property transfer is registered.

Conveyancing and Property Law attorneys at Abrahams & Gross has put together a list of some important aspects in respect of compliance certificates.

Electrical compliance

Certifies that the electrical installation on the property complies with the required safety standards (governed by the occupational health and safety Act)
Often remedial work is required which may take some time (best to attend as soon as possible)
The certificate is valid for two years unless alterations are made prior to the expiration date
Parties cannot contract out of/agree to waive

Beetle certificates

Certifies that the accessible wood of permanent structures, on the property, does not contain any wood destroying beetles

Usually valid for 3 to 6 months
Not governed by any specific law, but has become practise upon change of ownership of property
If parties agree that no certificate is necessary and the bank requires it for the purchaser’s bond, then this is for the purchaser’s expenses

Gas certificates

Certifies that the gas installation on the property complies with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and requires safety standards

A certificate must be obtained on installation
If any change or amendment is made, a new certificate must be obtained
Cannot contract out of or agree to waive

Plumbing certificates

Only applicable to transfers within the municipal jurisdiction of the City of Cape Town

Certifies that the water installation at the property is in line with the City of Cape Town Water By-laws
A new certificate must be obtained upon every change of ownership
Parties cannot contract out of this or agree to waive
NB! Does not confirm all plumbing works in perfect condition!

What does the plumbing certificate confirm?

the water installation conforms to the national building regulations;
the property’s water meter is in working order;
there are no defects that can cause water to run to waste; and
no rainwater leaks into the sewerage system

Electric fence

Certifies that the electric fence installation complies with the required safety standards in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act

  • An existing certificate may be transferred by the seller to the purchaser
  • A seller need only provide a new certificate to the purchaser if a change was made to the installation after the current certificate was issued
  • If sectional title, obtain from the body corporate
  • Parties cannot contract out of/agree to waive

Property24, Selling, Advice – “Why sellers need approved plans before selling” Web blog post. 28 Sep 2023