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planning to renovate

Imagine being fined for a minor home extension you effected to accommodate your child who wants to study from home but feels the time is ripe for his/her own separate entrance; or for any other change you want to effect as part of your new year’s resolutions?

This is not far fetched, as the City of Cape Town municipality regularly clamps down on buildings erected without its prior approval.

It is a requirement in all local authorities (by virtue of the provisions of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act, 103 of 1977 (‘the Building Standards Act’)), that approval must be obtained before property owners may build on their properties or effect renovations and amendments thereto. This is to ensure that building rules and zoning determinations are accommodated in the owner’s suggested plans.

The City of Cape Town municipality often reports on its website of actions taken against offenders in municipal courts. Transgressors have been fined up to R 5000, the maximum penalty amount.

What about small renovations?
Even minor changes – such as erecting a wendy house, carport or sunroom – require municipal intervention. In such instances, formal building approval is not always needed but the owner must nonetheless obtain written confirmation from the municipality that the requirement for formal building approval is waived. For a list of these exceptions, read here.

And non-permanent structures, or those not built with “brick and mortar”?
According to the website of the City of Cape Town, a building plan application must be submitted for approval in respect of the planned erecting of any structure, whether it is of a temporary or permanent nature and irrespective of the materials used to build it. This includes alterations or extensions to existing structures.

Do building plans for interior renovations – ie bringing down internal walls, building a fireplace or a new kitchen with new plumbing and electrical points – have to be approved by council?
Yes, you would need building approval as the alterations involve the alteration, conversion, extension or rebuilding of any part of the structural system of the home. The general rule is that approval is required when you:
* Build a house and then add onto it later according to existing plans;
* Convert a garage into a living space;
* Convert an attic into livable space; and
* Add a conservatory, sunroom or swimming pool.

An unnecessary evil?

The requirement to obtain plan approval involves multi-facetted considerations. It relates to compliance with zoning provisions, safety issues and observance of general urban planning goals.

It also guards the interests of neighbours: the Building Standards Act allows for a neighbour to object to approved building plans if it can be shown that, amongst other things, the municipality that approved the plans did not properly consider the fact that:
* the area in which the proposed building is to be erected, will be disfigured by the proposed building,
* that the area will be rendered unsightly or objectionable by the proposed building; or
* that the proposed building will derogate from the value of adjoining or neighbouring properties.

These factors must of course be balanced against the consideration that a property owner is in principle allowed to do on his property what he chooses to, subject to the reasonable exercise of this right.

Obtain legal advice to assist you in dealing with complaints to your building plans or if you wish to object to a neighbour’s building plans, by contacting us on
Also have a look at the City’s website for information on their system of approving building plans.

021 673 4700

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