The timing to get building plans approved

Not being in possession of approved actual building plans is illegal and can have far reaching and disastrous consequences. Insurance companies don’t cover illegal structures and may decline any claim, which is another reason to get the building plans in order.

The period of time for approval of building plans for new and existing structures is as important as the costs.

It is very difficult to predict the time City Council will take to approve any building plans whether retrospective for already existing structures or for new buildings.

It has been know for approval to take place in a month, however, this is uncommon.

One of the companies in Bryanston, who deal with these requests, Geometrics Design give us an understanding of the process below…

“One of our clients in Randpark Extension had appointed us on 3 May 2016. After obtaining copies of previously approved plans, Zoning information, SG Diagram and aerial  photograph from the Johannesburg City Council we prepared new building plans showing the present situation.  With a certificate from the structural engineer about the soundness of the building, the new building plans and all the necessary forms we applied on our clients behalf for approval at the “Building Control Department” at City Council. The plans were approved on 6 June 2016. Meaning the whole procedure took little more than 1 month.

Unfortunately new inexperienced staff has now arrived along the approval –line and just to get the exemption from 10 400 XA can take up to two weeks. But without this exemption the home owner would have to comply with the new building regulations from 2011 which can cost a fortune.

The official waiting time for approval from date of submission to the “Building Control department of the required documents is 6-8 weeks.

If “Land Use Management”, the new name for “Town planning” is involved for building line relaxation etc. the waiting time is two to three months.

If a permit from PHRA-G is required the waiting time is 6-8 weeks before submission to the Building Control Department.

If any restrictions in the title deed have to be removed, a professional town planner has to get involved and  it can take twelve to eighteen months before the removal appears in the “Government Gazette”, which means the restrictions have been removed and the plans can be submitted to the “Building Control Department”.

As hard as we try to get building plans prepared and approved  as quickly as possible we also need the cooperation of the owner of the respective property.

We had a client who appointed us in November 2016 to apply for the approval of his building plans. As much as we reminded him he didn’t supply us with the required copy of the title deed and was never available for the necessary signatures. In March 2017 we got a phone call from a desperate estate agent. She had a buyer for the property, but there were no approved plans! Suddenly it became urgent. The copy of the title deed appeared, signatures were given and the plans could be submitted to City Council. City Council of course took their time, never mind how hard we pushed.  Unfortunately the deal fell through, the buyer didn’t want to wait and had found another property.

By law the owner has to safeguard the approved building plans for his/her property. City Council points out again and again, that they are not obliged  to keep records of building plans and providing copies of those in their records department is  a matter of courtesy from their side. Not having approved building plans is considered an invisible defect and according to law firm STBB occupying or using such structures is an offence.

Another aspect is the fact that unapproved structures, even if it just an extension or addition to the approved structure are subject to demolition if requested by neighbours or City Council.  No wonder that prospective buyers for a property are asking for approved building plans for the structures in the present state.

Fortunately registered architects are permitted by the Johannesburg City Council to apply for retrospective approval of previously not approved structures  on the owner’s behalf. It is a rather time consuming and -in some cases a complicated- procedure and works like that:

From the moment the property owner appoints the architect it takes time to prepare all the necessary documentation for the application for the approval  of the building plan. The cooperation of the owner is important, meaning his supplying of a copy of the title deed, giving access to the property for site measurements, allow access for the structural engineer  and signing the new building plan and the required forms.

  1. The architect obtains zoning information, Surveyor General’s diagram, an aerial photo and the previously approved building plans (if there are any) from City Council unless the owner can provide same
  2. The architect prepares the new building plan, organizes the certificate of a structural engineer, obtains a copy of the deed of transfer (title deed) from the seller and assists the seller with the filling in of the required forms for the City Council.
  3. In case the structures to be approved have been built before 2011 an exemption from the requirements of the new building regulations (10 400 XA) can be obtained from the building Inspector at City Council.
  4. With the exemption (if applicable) the Architect submits the documents to the Building Control Department and pays – on the clients behalf – the plan submission fees.
  5. The architect follows up the application until final approval, which usually takes 6-8 weeks provided there are no holidays in between.

But there can be obstacles as described above and others which delay the approval.

Only after all  applicable conditions are fulfilled the documents can be submitted to the Building Control Department for  approval. ( see point 5.)

We as architects take care of all those procedures, assist the owner with the necessary formalities and vigorously follow up the progress at City Council.

Our advice: Do not wait until a buyer is asking for approved building plans, it can take really long and not every buyer is patient enough. Approved plans have to be available anyways.”

Don’t hesitate to contact Laura or Wilhelm at 083 294 4419 or per e-mail: for any related information.

Looking for an agent with a difference, one that will guide you through every stage of the process and give you exceptional service, call Donna today.

For more information on sole and open mandates, read here.