C&A Friedlander Attorneys

When attending to any alterations, additions or construction work at your property, including the construction of a new building, the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act 103 of 1977 (the “NHBRC”) requires that you obtain approval from your local municipality.While building plan approval is required for some minor works, such as altering your boundary walls, constructing a Wendy House or swimming pool, you will not need to submit professional architectural plans with these applications and a sketch plan will suffice.

When attending to major alterations such as extending your home, removing walls or constructing a garage, you will need a professional architect registered with the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (“SACAP”) to prepare your building plans for submission to your local municipality.

When getting ready to submit your building plan application, you will need copies of the following documents for submission to the municipality:

  1. Copy of your title deed, which can be obtained from the Deeds Office.
  2. Copy of the surveyor general diagram for your property, which can be downloaded free of charge from the SG Website.
  3. Zoning details for your property, which can be obtained from the municipality.
  4. Copies of any previously approved building plans held by the municipality (if you do not have copies of the existing plan, a separate application has to be submitted to request copies).

Depending on the type of building plan approval required, the municipality may require a Conveyancer’s Certificate for your property. This entails appointing a conveyancer to attend to a pivot deed search at the Deeds Office – the conveyancer will search the historical title deeds for your property to determine whether there are any restrictive title deed conditions prohibiting the proposed renovations. Restrictive title deed conditions can restrict the use of the land, the height of the buildings, the number of buildings on the site, the percentage of land that may be built upon and other such restrictions.

Should there be a restrictive title deed condition preventing the approval of your building plan, you would have to submit yet another application to the municipality for the removal of the condition. This application requires advertising, as well as publishing the approval in the Government Gazette.

While sectional title properties will not necessarily have the same restrictive title deed conditions as a free-standing erf, they do have the added obstacle of obtaining body corporate approval. Most sectional title schemes outline their internal building plan approval process in the conduct rules for the scheme. As part of the body corporate approval, the trustees will usually require that approval from the municipality be obtained and submitted to them before any construction work can commence.

If your free-standing property is part of an estate with a Homeowners Association (“HOA”), you too will have the added obstacle of obtaining approval from the Homeowners Association. HOA’s often have a separate building policy, alternatively, their building plan approval process can be found in the HOA constitution.

Once you have all of the necessary documentation required for your building plan approval application, the local municipality’s process is fairly straightforward, for your major alterations it is recommended that you consult with a SACAP professional to attend to the entire submission process on your behalf.

All application forms referred to above can be downloaded from your local municipality’s website, or alternatively, you can visit your local municipal office for further information.

For the City of Cape Town (the “City”), building plan applications are required to be submitted on their e-services portal for Development Management Services (DAMS), however, it is still a requirement that supporting documentation be submitted to the relevant district office.

The City sites the following turn-around times for building plan approvals on their website:

Scenario Processing Time
Building plans for an area smaller than 500 square metres. Thirty days, if the building plan complies with all requirements.
Building plans for an area larger than 500 square metres. Sixty days, if the building plan complies with all requirements.
Building plan work that triggers a land use application or any other application in terms of applicable law as referred to in Section 7 of the National Building Regulations Act, e.g. where a departure from the land use requirements is necessary, or a heritage authorisation is triggered. The building plan will be referred back to the applicant and will need to be resubmitted once the land use application has been approved or necessary authorisation has been obtained.

Choosing your building contractor

Now that you have the necessary approval from your local municipality, you can commence with the necessary renovations and choosing the right building contract can be a daunting task.

Here are some things to consider when it comes to your building contractor:

  1. Ask your SACAP Professional or a neighbour who has recently attended to any renovations if they have any building contractor that they would recommend.
  2. Make sure your chosen building contractor is registered with the NHBRC.
  3. Ask potential building contractors if they are working on any current sites and go have a look at their work.
  4. Compare quotes from more than one building contractor to ensure that you are paying a market-related price.
  5. Enter into a building contract regulating the scope of the work to be done and the costs involved, as well as a timeline of the work to be done.
  6. Ensure that your building contractor, or their suppliers, are registered with the relevant associations for any electrical, gas or plumbing installations.

While the above list is by no means exhaustive, it should give you a starting point for selecting and negotiating with your chosen building contractor.

All the best with your renovations!


by Claire Daly


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).