Don’t land up in hot water

The potential impact of unapproved building plans when it comes time to sell.

September 26, 2016

The National Building Regulations and Buildings Standards Act, 103 of 1977, dictates that no building may be erected without the necessary plans being submitted to and approved by the local authority.

While conforming to these regulations may seem complicated and unnecessary at first, it is important to note that their implementation is intended to ensure the enjoyment by all owners of the land which belongs to them, without it disrupting others.

The consequences for owners who alter or extend their property without the necessary approval can be quite severe. While there is the possibility of applying for approval retrospectively, should this be denied, the local authority is within their rights to order the building, or part thereof, to be demolished. Of course, this can be incredibly unpleasant, not to mention, costly for the owner.

It is, however, possible to remedy the situation through applying and obtaining the necessary council approval even once the construction has been completed. This will involve drawing up the building plans which will require the expertise of a qualified architect or draughtsman. These plans will then be submitted to council for approval. When it comes to a property transfer, unapproved building alterations can pose a significant problem for the seller.

Selling a property with unauthorized alterations may be seen as a misrepresentation. If these alterations are not disclosed, it can result in the seller being liable for claims. To prevent this the Estate Agent should address these alterations prior to the buyer signing the offer to purchase.

As previously mentioned, it is possible to apply for approval to the local authority, which would include the drawing up of plans to be submitted for consideration. The approval of these plans can also be included in the offer to purchase as a suspensive condition to protect a buyer. This means that should the requisite approval not be obtained, the offer to purchase will not constitute a valid contract of sale and the buyer will not be bound by the terms of the sale. He or she will then be free to make an offer and to purchase another property.

Of course, this retrospective application should not be considered the first option as it can delay property sales and can result in unnecessary costs. Plus, there is no guarantee that the plans will be accepted. Instead, it is recommended to have the necessary plans drawn up and the requisite approval received before moving ahead with any construction or alteration to a property.

Written by Wessel de Kock

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