Becoming the owner of a property is accompanied by significant responsibility when it comes to maintenance. While some property upkeep would be considered purely cosmetic, there are a number of elements that have the potential to pose a physical/legal risk when not properly maintained; it is the maintenance of these elements that is regulated through compliance certificates as part of a property sale.
The required compliance certificates
Prior to a property being transferred and registered in the Deeds Office, the seller is required to obtain a number of certificates, prescribed by legislation and by-laws, that serve as certification and confirmation of the good working order of certain property features, such as the electrical clearance of a property.
The certification required for the sale of a property varies from province to province and is governed by provincial legislation (provincial by-laws). However, an electrical compliance certificate, is mandatory for all property transfers. The electrical compliance certificate confirms that all electrical work on a property is in line with the relevant legislation. Should the parties to a sale agree not to obtain such a certificate, the provisions of the relevant Act will still apply with the consequent liability, possibly by both seller and purchaser, towards third parties.
“Borer Beetle” certificates are also a common requirement in provinces where insects such as the borer beetle can cause structural damage to a property foundation and structure, and a Water Installation Certificate is required for the transfer of properties governed by the City of Cape Town Municipality. Buyers need to be aware that this is not a full plumbing certification and will not necessarily identify all plumbing defects.
Other certifications, such as a gas compliance certificate and an electrical fence compliance certificate, are only required where they are applicable to a particular property.
Quick Compliance Certificate Checklist
The seller’s responsibility
The responsibility of obtaining these certificates lies with the seller, who must arrange for an accredited service provider to perform a full inspection and issue a certificate. The seller is also responsible for the costs associated with obtaining the necessary certificate.
The certificate will reflect the industry registration number of the service provider, which can be double checked with the registration authority (also indicated on the certificate). In addition, accredited service providers will typically carry identification cards as proof of accreditation.
Should the inspection report find that there is work to be done in order to rectify a fault, this work must be carried out at the expense of the seller. Once complete, an updated compliance certificate must be obtained to certify this work was done.
Buyers, watch out for…
While the onus is on the seller to obtain these compliance certificates, there are several things the buyer can take note of to help ensure a hitch-free property purchase.
Firstly, compliance certificates are only valid for two years. A buyer should therefore check the date on the compliance certificates provided and request an updated certificate if the date on the submitted document falls outside of this timeframe. A Compliance Certificate that is out of date may cause unnecessary delays in the registration process.
Secondly, these compliance certificates must be provided by an accredited service provider, and it is often wise for a buyer to check the service provider’s credentials. As mentioned above, this can be checked directly with the service provider who will have proof of registration with the relevant governing body. In addition, should it be considered necessary, the governing body can be contacted to confirm that the relevant service provider is authorised to provide compliance certificates.
Lastly, a buyer should also always request the original copies of these certificates for his or her records. This will serve as confirmation of the state in which the property was agreed to be transferred. Should it later become clear that the certificate should not have been issued, the buyer will have recourse against either the service provider who will be required to return and repair whatever is not in order, or against the seller in situations where the issue is caused by alterations performed after the certificate was obtained.
Should either not render the desired outcome, the buyer should approach the relevant board and notify them of the issues. This board will then conduct investigations and ensure that the matter is rectified appropriately.
Written by Wessel de Kock