Permission Avoids Demolition – Local Authority Approval of Plans | Legal Articles


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Permission Avoids Demolition – Local Authority Approval of Plans

The superintendence of local authorities over their areas of jurisdiction requires that they approve key developments on land and properties prior to erection.

This is mainly because town planning schemes place different locations into zones for various uses. Whilst some areas are for residential purposes, some are marked for industrial, recreational, agricultural, cultural heritage and some for prime office spaces.

approval of building plans in South Africa

Municipal House Plan Approval

Before any erection of structures is conducted on properties in each of these zones, the regulations require that the local authority (municipality) approve first in line with their zoning schemes.

The above requirement still applies on developments in residential areas. Where a house is built from the ground, plans for such house must be drawn and approved by the municipality before any building work takes place.

Approval of Building Plans in South Africa

What is the position with regards to renovations on a building? The default position is that the National Building Regulations in South Africa require that plans for any building or structural changes must be approved first before they are erected.

Where the property is of historical or heritage significance, any changes no matter how small must be approved by the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA), or where a house is more than 60 years old any changes must be approved first.

However, “minor building work” may be erected without plans approval from the local authority, but permission must be sought. This is small building work that does not affect the external or structural walls of the property, and examples of these will be discussed below.

Approval of plans and permission must not be confused in this context. Approval refers to where building plans must be drawn and lodged with the municipality for assessment and authorisation, whilst permission usually involves the completion of a standard form and consent is granted.

Small outdoor structures such as children’s playhouses under 5 square metres, tool sheds under 10 square metres, greenhouses under 15 square metres and pergolas, do not require approval from the municipality as they are classified as minor building work.

One needs to complete a standard form at the municipality and consent may be granted if no objections are raised by the local authority. The local authority may object with regards to the type of the structure, its function, or its location on the property.

Internal walls can be altered as long as they do not affect the structural safety of the building. A lot of people undertake internal renovations to create more space inside the house e.g open plan renovations, and such do not necessarily need approval from the local authority as long as they remain in what can be termed as minor work.

In the event that one is not sure whether the internal renovation still amounts to minor building work, the municipality must be consulted first. However, approval is required for any changes to the shape and size of openings such as doorways and windows, with the latter (windows) having to conform to the new SANS10400 XA energy efficiency regulations.

Lastly, a roof can be replaced without approval as long as the same materials as before are used. Of particular importance to the issue about the roof will be the November 2020 Regulations regarding the use of asbestos products in workplaces, kindly seek our advice and guidance on this as a matter of importance.

Building Without Plans

Local authorities have guidelines with regards to buildings and alterations to properties in their jurisdiction which may differ from one town to the other and from city to city.

It is advisable to consult with them first whenever one needs to develop their property so as to be sure. Non-compliance may become problematic with regards to insurance, selling the property and sometimes the municipality may get a Court Order for demolition of all illegal structures, which can all be avoided if one gets clarity about lawful building work from the beginning.

Van Deventer & Van Deventer Incorporated – Property Law Attorneys Cape Town & Johannesburg

We specialise in various Property Law matters from Transfers, Community Schemes disputes, evictions to general property litigation. Our website also outlines a wide array of other areas of law that we practice in. Our approach is professional and comprehensive.

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