What every Homeowner should know about Building Plans

Any building or renovation done without permission or approved plans can put the homeowner or home buyer in a potentially risky situation.


When undertaking any building or renovation you should be aware that any done without permission or approved plans can put the you in a potentially risky situation. This is also the case should you buy a home where work has been done without municipal approved plans.

According to Charles Haigh, who is the Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Elite, this situation can be avoided with some due diligence on the part of the real estate agent representing the seller or buyer. Property buyers should be aware of the fact that the local town council will take the necessary steps to remedy any illegal work done, and the registered owner of the property at the time will be the responsible party.



Having the house plans in hand will most definitely indicate the age of the property, any setbacks for building lines and, of course, whether any changes (additions or improvements) have been approved by the relevant local authority. Haigh states that failure to comply will attract penalties and the possibility of a hefty fine.

Here are some ways that potential home buyers can protect themselves:

If you are a home buyer in the process of purchasing a property, be sure to ask for a copy of the approved plans. This can be done as a suspensive condition of sale, which means that unless the plans are produced, transfer will not take place and, in effect, will pass the responsibility of proving the legality of the structure to the seller or the current registered owner.





Real Estate Agents should also be more pro-active and include a request for the plans when listing the property for sale. If the owner does not have a copy, a letter of authorisation to council nominating the agent to extract a copy of the plans on the owner’s behalf is acceptable.

When buying a new build, the same rules apply. The local authority building inspector will ‘sign off’ on the commencement and completion of the home by way of various certificates of compliance, so purchasers are safe in this regard. However, it is important that the home buyer ensure that the property has been enrolled with the National Homebuilders Registration Council (NHBRC) before commencement of the construction takes place.

As a consumer body, NHBRC protects purchasers of new homes from unscrupulous builders and provision should be made for a compulsory 1.3% levy of the building contract amount, which will need to be paid to the NHBRC for enrolling the home.

Haigh says that when utilising the services of a builder, it is best to ensure that everything is in writing. The homeowner should also request copies of all the certificates, as well as a copy of the approved plans and the enrolment certificate. This certificate has the NHBRC standard building guarantee on it, which warrants the integrity of the structure against shoddy workmanship for a period of five years.



What to do about illegal buildings?

In the event that a homeowner finds themself in a situation where they receive a notice from the local council about an illegal extension on their property, they should enlist the services of draftsman or architect,” says Haigh.

 “Plans for the illegal alterations or additions will need to be drawn and submitted to the council, but you should be prepared to pay about double the usual fee as a penalty, or a demolition order from the local authority for the illegal structure.

Adapted from article via Dawood Kader & Associates



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