C&A Friedlander Attorneys

In the whirlwind of excitement that often accompanies buying or selling a property, it is easy to overlook the nitty-gritty details, such as the critical role of building plans. The National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act 103 of 1977 clarifies that construction cannot commence without the prior submission and approval of the designs, by the local authority. While securing building plans may not initially seem essential to the property transfer process, it is undeniably in the best interest of both buyers and sellers, to ensure that approved building plans are part of the transaction.

While it’s not always a strict requirement for a successful property transfer that approved as-built plans be obtained, it is undoubtedly in your best interest as a buyer or seller to ensure that the requirement of approved building plans is part of your deal. It is advisable to make it a condition in you Agreement of Sale that the approved plans be obtained and viewed prior to registration taking place.

It is worth noting that obtaining approved building plans is not a swift process. Depending on various factors, it can take up to three months to complete. To ensure a smooth and efficient transfer, it’s wise to kickstart this process early in your property journey, if necessary.

It is important to understand what exactly needs to be on a building plan. In line with the City of Cape Town’s by-laws for minor works1, projects that would have to reflect on a building plan include:

  • Swimming pools
  • Wendy houses
  • Garden sheds bigger than 3m2
  • Carports
  • Any renovations that significantly alter a building’s structure
  • Boundary walls
  • Any temporary building being used for construction

There are exceptions too. Some minor works, like braais without chimneys, garden sheds under 3 square meters, or car gates (unless partly on public land), may not need plans.

Of late, the installation of solar panels have become popular. One does not require building plans for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems if the panels:

  • do not protrude more than 600mm above the roof’s highest point
  • are not raised more than 1.5m above any point on the roof
  • that are installed on the ground do not project more than 2,1m above the natural/ finished ground level2.

The specifics of any part of building construction and alterations can get a bit tricky, so when in doubt, its best to consult the councillor in your area. Another key role-player involved in the transfer process that could require building plans is your financial institution.

When a property sale involves financing through a bank or lending institution, the chances are high that the bond will only be fully approved once the requisite building plans are provided. This is often termed “a retention on the bond”.  This is a particular requirement for potential sellers who have performed renovations and alterations to their property at any time, pre-sale. This implies that without these plans in place, the transfer process can be needlessly delayed and potentially jeopardising the entire transaction.

Having approved building plans on record not only streamlines your property sale, but also provides an essential part of the property’s history. This can be invaluable for future transactions or renovations, as it demonstrates that compliance with building regulations have been met. Obtaining copies of building plans for properties within the City of Cape Town has become more accessible through the e-Services platform3.

The significance of building plans in property transactions cannot be overstated. Whether you’re buying or selling, having approved building plans in place can expedite the transfer process, satisfy lender requirements, and ensure the property’s compliance with regulations. Don’t let a lack of building plans impede your property journey—proactively address this aspect to safeguard your investment and to promote a seamless transaction.

Should you require any further information, you may contact me at leneska@caf.co.za or on 021 914 5511 for assistance.

  1. https://www.capetown.gov.za/Family%20and%20home/residential-property-and-houses/property-maintenance/guide-to-minor-works
  2. https://www.capetown.gov.za/Media-and-news/Going%20solar%20safely%20installer%20checklist%20for%20customers
  3. https://eservices.capetown.gov.za/irj/portal

 Written by Leneska Lee Koopman

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).