The first question obviously is: How Can I Get Building Plans Of My House?
Well, Municipalities are usually obliged by law to keep a copy of all building plans for each and every house that is built in a given local authority. A department that is usually tasked with this function is the Building Control Department, usually it’s a sub-department in the Planning department. A municipality will require proof that you are the own the house for which you request the plans.
Every new building or any alteration that changes or adds on to the structure of an existing building requires approval by the City’s planning department. The planning department is charged with ensuring that every building is in compliance with minimum construction specifications, building codes and standards. This in turn guarantees a healthy environment that is safely built for everyone. Below is a look at frequently asked questions concerning building plans submission.
Why do I need to submit a building plan for approval?
The building codes requirement for obtaining approval before building is not just a requirement of the local authority. It is also a requirement under the terms and regulations of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act which applies throughout the country. This building codes requirement is designed to ensure a healthy and safe living environment for you and your family, and is also a prerequisite to obtaining a bond. Moreover, it is a legal building codes requirement which therefore means that if you build without approval, you may end up facing prosecution and financial hardship.
Who can draw and submit building plans?
South African building codes holds that only a person registered with the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP) is permitted to draw and submit building plans for approval. It is therefore important to ensure that the person you hire to draw your house plans has been suitably registered. Your local authority will also verify this registration before they’ll accept a building plan application.
Do I have to submit building plans even for small work I do to my house?
According to building codes, any building that you intend to build on your property will require that a building plan be submitted for approval. This includes new buildings, additions or alterations to buildings, swimming pools, boundary walls, Wendy houses, tool shed, garages and more. It is also required that you submit plans in the event that you wish to change the use of your property. For instance, if you intend to run a business from your home.
What do I need to do before I submit my house plan?
Before your building plans can be considered, you will need to first have them checked to ensure that the plans you have met the building codes requirements of Town Planning. What this means is that your house plans will first require approval by the Town Planning Department (Land Use Management). In most cases, this is carried out at the same Centre at which you will submit your building application. For further advice, consult your appointed architectural professional.
What is required to submit the building plan application?
You will require a copy of your title deed in addition to a number of copies of the building plans for which the new work is to be carried out. One of these copies must be coloured in accordance with the applicable building codes. The plans should be clearly presented together with the application form. Upon submission, you will need to pay a fee according to the “Tariff of Charges” as determined and issued by your local authority, before your plans are considered. Keep in mind that only an architectural professional who is registered is able to draw and submit your building plans. They are familiar with the process of submission and are able to advise you accordingly.
Where do I submit my building application?
You may submit your building application at the regional offices of your local authority under which your property. Your architectural professional will also be able to assist you in this regard.
What will happen following submission?
Your house plans will be circulated to various departments for comment including Fire and Health, after which a decision is made for approving or pending your application. Your application will be scrutinized in terms of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards act and its building codes. Building plan applications may only receive approval if they are in compliance with the building codes requirements of the National Building Standards Act, the National Building Regulations, as well as any other applicable building codes. As such, house plans are assessed in terms of the Act and Regulations. If your house plans are rejected, you will be informed why in writing and provided with an opportunity to correct the plans such that they may be resubmitted.
In most cases, the municipality will contact you in the event that any corrections or amendments are required. In most cases, If you correct and resubmit the building plans within one year from the date on which they were initially pended you will not have to pay any additional costs for submission.
How long will it take to process my building application?
The process will differ from one municipality to another. On average it will take about 4 weeks to process a building plan through most municipalities. Within this period, the local authority should provide you with comments on your building plans. Should your application be approved, you will be contacted to collect a copy of the building plan, which will bear a stamp of approval, as well as a letter that contains vital information.
You may only begin building once you have been granted approval. Remember to contact the Building Inspector when necessary in order for them to inspect your building progress. This is necessary such that upon completion of the building, the Inspector can issue you with a certificate of occupancy as confirmation that the building was built according to approved plans and thereby permit you to occupy and use the building.
What would happen if I failed to submit my building plan?
Should you decide to build without having your building plans approved, the building inspector is legally entitled to enter the property and order an immediate halt to construction. They could even obtain a court order for your structure to be demolished at your expense, and you would also be liable for legal costs. In serious cases, you could end up being fined or imprisoned.
What if my illegal alterations go unnoticed by building inspectors?
Years later, this could come back to haunt you when you attempt to sell the house and the potential buyer requests to see the approved building plans.
Where can I obtain building application forms?
Building application forms may be obtained online or from the building plan submission counters at the regional offices of your local authority under which your property is located. Your architectural professional will also be able to assist you in this regard
Do I have to inform my neighbours of my proposed building project?
While this is considered good practice, you actually don’t have to inform your neighbors of your proposed building works. However, if your application also includes departure from zoning scheme regulations such as increased height/bulk/coverage or building line relaxation or similar proposals, in accordance with applicable building codes, a formal neighbour’s consent would be required.
What if my building plan application is refused?
Such a decision may be appealed in writing to the Review Board or City Manager within twenty one days. Alternatively, it may be faster to simply correct or amend the building plans and resubmit them for approval. You will not incur any costs if you resubmit the plans within one year of the original decision, as long as the plans have been amended in respect of the aspects that caused the refusal and they do not substantially differ from the specifications, plans or other documentation that you submitted previously.
How long will my approved building plan be valid?
Building plans are valid for 12 months from the approval date. You may apply in writing for an extension to the regional offices of your local authority under which your property is located before the date of expiry.
How and when will the building inspection take place?
Before a building is occupied, it will need to be inspected and the owner issued an occupation certificate. You will need to notify your local authority under which your property is located say a week in advance that you require an inspection. Following receipt of the relevant inspection request from the contractor or builder, the building inspector will carry out the following inspections as a way of ensuring that the actual work conforms to the approved House plans:
- Following completion of excavations or foundation trenches, before foundations are casted
- Upon completion of the drainage installation
- Upon completion of the roof structure
- On completion of the building including finishes
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