This is the first article by our new collaborator, Savannah Solomons of Solomons Attorneys and Solomons Legal Consulting. Savannah has worked with companies which range from small companies to large corporations as well as multinationals.
She will delve into legal questions related to residential and commercial property in South Africa, providing keen insights for Property Flash’s readers.
When considering renovations to a property, there are typical requirements in place that stipulate how and under what circumstances renovations can take place on a property. As a homeowner or construction company, it is vitally important to keep abreast of these regulations, as well as changes to legislation, to avoid potential legal and financial consequences. In short, the basic laws which need to be considered include:
- The Housing Consumer Bill;
- The National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act;
- The rules of your sectional title scheme
The Housing Consumer Bill, why it is important
The Housing Consumer Protection Bill (the Bill) is the latest in legislation proposed to regulate property and building laws in South Africa. While the Bill is not yet in force it will have a major impact on construction in South Africa when adopted.
The Bill is aimed at the protection of consumers through the registration of home builders, thereby applying further regulation to the construction industry. It aims to ensure contractual provisions to ensure protection to new entrants into the home building industry. It increases the time periods for claims against structural defects resulting from any construction, repairs, renovations or alterations to a property from three years to five years, and the penalties related to non-compliance with the proposed Bill from R25 000 to R1m.
As a result, the proposed Bill will seriously affect individuals and construction companies in the expense of completing construction work, the manner in which it is completed and the potential for liability post the completion of a renovation contract.
National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act (“the Act”)
The Act provides that any structural additions or alterations to a property must be approved by the local municipality before such alterations or additions can take place. If you build onto an existing home, you will need building plans which comply with the Act. The regulations are not retroactive, however. Applications submitted where existing areas of the building do not comply with amended terms of the Act, will not result in the applicant having to renovate the prior existing areas of the building to comply with later amendments to the Act.
Part A of the Act relates to General Principles and Requirements and requires that you have the following documents to submit to your local municipality when applying to make renovations or alterations to your property, including:
- a site plan;
- layout drawings;
- a fire installation drawing;
- drainage installation drawings;
- particulars of any existing building or structure that is going to be demolished – you need to state how it will be demolished; and
- any other plans and particulars that your local authority requires.
Local by-laws and regulations applicable in any local region will still be applicable in line with the Act. It is therefore always important to ensure that you are aware of local by-laws in conjunction with the Act.
For example, the values of the required distances from boundary walls will vary slightly based on the local by-laws. The values should be obtained from the local municipality to ensure accuracy. In some cases, there is no limit, while in others a building must be erected three metres from the boundary line.
Should the Act and local by-laws be considered, the homeowner would be notified by the municipality of its obligation to cease building, rectify a building to comply with legislation or by-laws, or potentially rectify a building that fails to comply with legislation and by-laws after the sale of the building.
Rules for renovations in a sectional title scheme
Essentially, before making any renovations in a sectional title scheme, a property owner or investor will need to be aware of the scheme’s regulations relating to the sectional title scheme in which the property owner or investor is interested.
Renovating is undoubtedly noisy and disruptive. In a sectional title environment, the individual or investor has multiple co-habitants to be aware of. In addition, a property owner will likely be required to make renovations in line with the aesthetic theme of the scheme itself.
As a result, the body corporate of any sectional title scheme will always incorporate rules and regulations relating to renovations into the rules of the scheme itself, which will need to be considered first and foremost even before the Act or any by-laws are taken into consideration.
If this is not complied with, the body corporate will be able to ensure construction or renovations cease and/or the property is returned to its previous state at the cost of the owner.
Why is it important to be aware of the above contractual and legislative rules and regulations?
The legislation dealing with renovations to property are extensive and cannot be summarised in full. However, being aware of the basic principles, as listed herein, is important to ensure that any owner of a property has a full understanding of the obligations imposed on them by a municipality prior to construction or renovation.
Actively making yourself or your company (as a property owner) aware and ensuring that you as a contractor are aware of the obligations specific to your circumstances, will ensure that commercial and financial liability is limited in every circumstance.
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