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Building plans 101

Aug 29, 2017 | Property Investment

Why it is important to check building plans before buying property

In the excitement of purchasing a new home, you might not mind that the house’s extra garage or extended veranda doesn’t appear on the approved plans. But it can cause you a lot of trouble: these structures may ultimately have to be demolished, impacting the property’s value. In terms of the National Building Act, any buildings must appear on the plan, which must be approved by the local authority. If you want to add a garage or granny flat, these need to be drawn up first by an architect and then submitted to the municipality.

But many owners alter their homes without proper approval. If this is picked up, it becomes the current owner’s responsibility to fix. While it’s not a legal requirement for sellers to provide a copy, buyers can, and should, insist that they check the plans as a condition of sale. These plans should be scrutinised, together with a draughtsman or architect if necessary, to make sure the buildings conform. If they don’t, the sales agreement should make it clear that the seller needs to have proper plans drawn up and approved at their cost. Lodging a new set of plans with the municipality attracts a fee and fines will probably be levied for unauthorised structures. It’s also possible that unapproved buildings might not meet building standards and the local authority can insist that they be upgraded or demolished. The entire sale can be cancelled. If such a clause isn’t included in the sales agreement and the buyer discovers that there are unapproved buildings on the property, they may not be able to seek compensation as sellers are protected by the voetstoots clause.

Credit: Photo: iStock, Text: Patrick Cairns

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