By Justine Olivier

The National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act (No. 103 of 1977) clearly stipulates that no person may erect, alter, add to or convert any building without prior approval by the local authority.

Property law specialist Marguerite van Niekerk, at Herold Gie Attorneys, concurs adding that “if you choose to build or renovate without approved plans, a building inspector may serve an order to stop all building work immediately, which if ignored, may lead to the imposition of a fine or even further prosecution, and a court order to demolish the structure concerned – a costly exercise!” Something to keep in mind is that if building continues without approval, problems more than likely will, arise later.

While submitting plans is of major concern regarding renovating or alterations, one should keep in mind whether or not there is enough budget to make the desired changes. Unfortunately, more often than not, most try to do what their budget cannot and as a result are left with a poor imitation and inferior quality of what they first imagined.

A wise decision would be to speak to professionals in terms of an accurate figure before proceeding with plans.

If the renovation does turn out to be unattractive as a result of bad financial planning, it may reducie the value of the surrounding properties. Even the possibility of this, could lead neighbours to object to the whole building process entirely even before the construction process is completed. Even before laying down the first brick, one should establish the legal requirements upfront and then resolve any possible issues with one’s neighbours and the council.

Sandy Kotzê, of Helm Construction, notes that “one of the most common pitfalls people encounter when renovating is paying a deposit to the builder before work even starts. One should only pay progress payments”. Sandy further stresses the importance of checking the builders’ credentials before hiring. Walter De Lima, of Touchstone Homes, agrees adding: “As with anything in life, always try get the best people to do the job.” Walter adds, “To avoid costly and frustrating errors employ an architect upfront. The architect will interpret your ideas and fit these into your existing home for renovation or land for a new home. Furthermore, they will identify areas where other professionals may need to get involved such as structural engineers.”

So one can conclude that the next time you consider renovating and adding on to your home, best first speak to a professional.

With thanks to Helm Construction, Touchstone Homes, www.allaboutbuilding.co.za, www.joburg.org.za, www.property24.com