Why Building Plans Need to Be Up To Date Before You Build, Buy or Sell

Buying a house, undertaking any home improvements, or selling your property without first checking that Building Plans are approved and up-to-date could bring about serious consequences.






If you are buying a property, planning to put your house up for sale or are looking at doing some form of home improvements that will modify the footprint of the property it is essential to check that your building plans are up to date. South African law requires that everyone have approved plans on file at their local Town Planning office that cover any improvements, additions or alterations that have taken place. If you fail to check approved building plans on file beforehand, as the homeowner the responsibility is on you and failure to do so will result in action being taken against you. Refer to the Sans10400 website for more information on this and continue reading below.





What is a Building Plan?

Every building or construction project requires an approved building plan before any work can take place. The building plan is a detailed drawing or visual representation of a structure that incorporates accurately measured floor plans and a layout displaying the various rooms within the structure. A building plan also displays the site elevation or layout of the structure from various angles. The purpose of a building plan is to provide clear instructions for the developer or builder as to the construction process.



A properly detailed building plan will also show the location of servitudes (water, electricity and sewer lines) as well as a defined property line that surrounds the property.







Can I sell or buy a property without Building Plans?

When buying or selling a property building plans are rarely discussed during the contract negotiations and it is only further down the line that the lack of building plans may become an issue:

  • For a buyer, knowing that the building purchased is per approved plans lodged with the town planning or municipal department ensures that there will be no issues further down the line that illegal improvements have been undertaken.
  • For the seller, there can be no comebacks for a property sold without approval for home improvements.
  • For the homeowner, there will be no complications that can arise due to improvements undertaken without proper approval.

How do I check Building Plans for my property?

All plans are approved by your local municipality and these will be archived with the building or planning department of that municipality. Any homeowner can request access to the plans for their property by providing identification and relevant information about the property such as lot or Erf number, street address and town.





What happens if I do not have approved Building Plans?

The bottom line is that any alterations, modifications, additions or extensions that are done on the property without prior approval from the municipality or local authority can become a nightmare for the existing, previous or new property owner.

  • Unless the seller lists a property as 'voetstoets' or 'as is' and this is accepted by the buyer, the seller remains the responsible party for any legal action taken as a result of illegal construction that was fraudulently concealed at the time of the sale.
  • For the buyer, purchasing a home with a 'voetstoets' or 'as is' clause indicates that the buyer has accepted any risk relating to the property unless it can be proved that fraudulent activity took place.
  • For the homeowner, knowing that work has been undertaken without proper municipal approval means that the local authority can take any action necessary against the homeowner.







The bottom line

I had an extension to my home done about 20 years ago and, at the time, the contractor arranged everything for drawing up and approving the plans. When I wanted to do a few smaller improvement projects around the home I thought to myself, "Where are those plans? Did I see them? Where they approved? All of a sudden I couldn't remember the process of what happened and whether or not the plans were approved. Anyway, panic aside, I went through my files and finally found the approved plans, stamped with the municipal seal, and all was right with the world!



If you are not sure if plans were approved and you don't have a copy of the approved building plans, it is always better to check especially if you are planning on putting the property up for sale. Get in touch with your local municipality planning department, give them the details of the property and ask what approved plans they have on file.






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