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The Implications of Selling a House Without Approved Plans

If you are selling your house, and don’t have approved plans, you could find yourself in a lot of trouble. And if you are buying a house, and don’t ask whether the seller has approved plans, you might end up inheriting some very expensive problems.

Legal Implications of Selling a House Without Approved Plans

Since the law requires everybody to have plans drawn up in a particular manner, and approved by the local authority in their area, it stands to reason that every house will have plans. But this is not always the case, and a lack of approved building plans is clearly a major problem for many people buying and selling houses and other buildings in all parts of South Africa.

Hardly a day goes by that we don’t get asked questions on this website that relate to issues concerning plans. Sometimes people only discover that there are no plans years after they have bought a property, either because they eventually want to do alterations, or because they want to sell. Other times people find at the point of sale that a house they are buying does not have plans, and they want to know whose responsibility it is to have plans drawn up retrospectively (“as-built”).

The reality is that if alterations and additions have been carried out on a property without municipal (local authority) approval and the property is then sold, it can become quite a complex legal matter.

An article by STBB Smith Tabata Buchanan Boyes that we have referenced gives some clarity about the implications of selling a house without approved plans.

Are Building Plans and Building Approval Always Required for Houses?

As STBB explains, the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act specify the need for building plans and approval. More specifically, it is the local authority that governs exactly what can be done in terms of its zoning regulations and the NBR. So it is they that give approval (or deny it) for all building work and renovations on ALL properties. “Minor building work”  is viewed differently and most municipalities will be more lenient when it comes to minor building work.

The Act states that the municipality, at its own discretion, may be approached for a relaxation of the necessity to obtain approval of plans. But note that this must be asked for and approval received in writing. Read our page on minor building work for more information.

Problems That Can Arise

The lack of approved plans could lead a municipality to refuse to allow any further renovations a purchaser might have had planned. In the worst-case scenario, the municipality could order that the illegally erected structure or additions be demolished.
A (latent or patent) defect that is of a significant nature, and affects the use and enjoyment of the property, does allow the purchaser certain remedies. The most far-reaching of these is the cancellation of the agreement, which he is entitled to do if the purchaser can prove that the defect is so serious that he would not have bought the property had he known this. Other courses of action include the reduction in the purchase price or a claim for damages, depending on the seriousness of the defect and the specific circumstances involved.

In many cases, an offer to purchase a house will be dependent on the purchaser obtaining home-loan finance from a bank or other institution. And in most instances, (though not all), the financial institution will want to see up-to-date approved plans before finance will be granted. If the plans lodged with the council do not match the house as it stands, then the sale could fall through and set the seller’s plans back for quite a length of time, together with additional costs to rectify the problem.

The local authority is also entitled to levy fines on any “illegal” building work that was done without approval.

https://www.sans10400.co.za/house-without-approved-plans/

As-Built Municipal Drawings

If you are in the position of having a building or house in your yard without plans or approval from the Local Authority, we can assist in doing As-Built Municipal plans for the building. We will come out and inspect the building to accumulate if it complies with the National Building Regulations of South Africa. We will then check the position of the building over the SG-Diagram to see if was built within the Building lines of the yard. When Inspection is done we can make a call about what the necessary steps will be to get the structure approved.

 

An example of what the procedure will be on a structure that complies with the National Building Regulations of South Africa and within the Building Lines of the yard will be as follow:

A structural engineer will be appointed to inspect existing structures and to issue a SANS 10400 Form 4 if the building complies. As-Built Measurements of the building will be taken by our draughtsmen to draw detail As-Built drawings. The Municipal Approval As-Built Drawings will be submitted with an SG Diagram, Water and Lights Account of the owner, Engineer report on structures, Copy of Title Deed, Fenestration, and Energy Calculations.