Although the seller is not obliged to provide copies of approved building plans to prospective buyers, it is also the buyer’s right to ask for them. It can be tricky to obtain the necessary building plans unless provided by the seller. For this reason, buyers might request to include a clause to that effect in the offer to purchase (OTP).
“Making sure that you have approved plans before you start the process of selling your property is smart,” says Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa. “It proves to prospective buyers that what they see is what they’re getting. It is also a useful strategy for preventing problems from arising later in the process, which could potentially stop the transaction before it can be finalised,” he notes.
All homeowners should have a copy of the plans for the home on hand in their legacy file. If this is not the case, Goslett explains that if plans exist for the home, then these can usually be acquired from your local municipality. “Sometimes, though, municipalities do not have copies of plans on record because something could have happened to their records (e.g. there might have been a fire). Occasionally, plans might have never been drawn up because, for example, the building is very old and has never been altered,” Goslett explains.
When this happens, and a homeowner is unable to acquire the building plans for their home, it then becomes the current owner’s responsibility to have plans drawn up and submitted for approval.
On the other hand, Goslett warns that if the building plans that a homeowner receives from the municipality does not fully resemble the buildings on the property, then the homeowner will need to get new plans drawn up and submitted for approval if these differences are considered major alterations.
As a general principle, any major structural changes will mean that plans must be submitted to the municipality before building can proceed. However, minor building work does not need planning permission. Some examples include:
If the changes are significant structural alterations (for example, if there is an additional room), then plans need to have been submitted. If not, the responsibility then lies on the current homeowner to have new plans drawn up and approved to reflect the changes. “The municipality could either reject the plans and/or penalise the owner and could even demand that any illegal structures be demolished. That is why many buyers will insist that the seller provides up-to-date approved plans of the property before they will agree to sign an OTP,” says Goslett.
Those who are trying to sell without the necessary planning approval are encouraged to contact their nearest real estate office for some advice on how to address this. “As industry experts, real estate professionals are there to guide buyers and sellers through every step of the home buying and selling journey. Having a reliable agent on your side can help you to navigate through the challenging aspects of any home sale and will make the process a whole lot smoother for you,” he concludes.