Building plans & Local Authority Submissions

house plans

In South Africa, Local Authorities (municipalities i.e Johannesburg Metro Link) administer building plans approval. Since the introduction of the National Building Regulations (NBRs) in 1985, all Local Authorities in South Africa have applied these functional requirements when checking building plans that have been submitted for approval.

If you are planning to submit your house plans yourself once they have been drawn, check that you have everything in place.  It can be very frustrating to submit your plans thinking everything is in order only to find yourself facing extensive delays, for example, the engineer’s form.  But, if you do decide to do the submissions yourself you will need the following:-

  • Application forms obtained from your Local Authority
  • 1 x Coloured set and 1 x Black and White set of each drawing sheet
  • Standard forms from Architect / Draughtsman and Engineers, where applicable. The appointed professional will have to complete his / her SACAP compliance certificate
  • The registered professional will have to complete the Part XA energy efficiency compliance certificate together with the SANS 10400-A:2010 Edition 3 form. (If an Engineer was required for any structural compliance work, then he / she will be required to complete Schedule B “Approved competent person appointment” together with their SACAP forms.)
  • A copy of the title deed
  • Zoning certificate
  • Copy of S.G diagram (S.G = Surveyor General)

Building plans submission checklist

Copy of house plans

Since the law requires everybody to have house plans drawn up in a particular manner, and approved by the local authority in their area, it stands to reason that every house will have plans. But this is not always the case, and a lack of approved building plans is clearly a major problem for many people buying and selling houses and other buildings in all parts of South Africa.

The reality is that if alterations and additions have been carried out on a property without municipal (local authority) approval and the property is then sold, it can become quite a complex legal matter.

Sometimes people only discover that there are no plans years after they have bought a property, either because they eventually want to do alterations, or because they want to sell. Other times people find at the point of sale that a house they are buying does not have plans, and they want to know whose responsibility it is to have plans drawn up retrospectively (“as built”).

building plans
Floor plans
Copy of existing plans
Copy of existing plans
Building plan fees
Plan approval fees & approval time.

Building plan approval fees

How much will it cost for me to submit my building plans? – The saying “how long is a piece of string?’ comes to mind.

Each Local Authority has its own rates and formulas which it applies to the calculation for plan submission fees. The first thing the Local Authority does is work out the square metres of new construction area, be it a new structure, additions and alterations, and multiplies that area by the predetermined rates for plan submission. They then add on fees for items such as new swimming pool, building line relaxation and depending on the type of project bulk services contributions may be calculated into their free.

Once the fees have been paid, a file is opened and the plans and relevant documentation is placed there in. This file is then registered in the Local Authorities database and is given a unique reference number. The plan is then sent to the relative departments for plan scrutiny, when the plans arrive at any department, they update the door to base using the files registration number in order to keep track of the files progress.

Some councils have implemented a soft copies plan submission system, such as Cape Town. What this means is that your Architect, Draughtsman or Homeowner may submit their plans in an electronic format (usually in PDF format). This system has its benefits, the main one being that it should be possible to get printed copies of once plans from the Council at a later date which will be clear and to scale. The danger of the system however, is the last of data due to human or server error which may result in a total loss of drawings, related documentation and council inspection notes. In an effort towards a GREENER paperless society, we believe that this is a great initiative and clearly a step forward into the future of faster service delivery.

Should a client wish to submit plans themselves, they will encounter the inevitable waiting period associated with the circulation of their plans. For example the Johannesburg Metro Council routinely inform clients that they are waiting period for plan approval, should all go well and there are no corrections to any of the plans, will be approximately 6 to 8 months. We have had clients that have experienced a plan approval period of up to 12 months. That being said the opposite is also true and under certain unknown circumstances our clients have had plan approval within four weeks.

Because of the time delays being experienced at the Local Authority, we offer a plan submission service. Our staff members that provide this service known as “runners”, they are former building inspectors and plans examiners themselves. They understand the entire plan approval process and also the necessary requirements on every plan and its related documentation, because of this they are able to consult directly with the relevant Local Authority departments and in so doing are able to fast track the plan approval process, between 6 to 8 weeks.

Johannesburg Metro Council
Johannesburg Metro Council

The fee structure for our plan submission service:

Council search                                                                   R500.00
(a Council search refers to inquiries to be made at Council obtain copies of existing house plans, zoning certificate, SG diagrams, Town Planning Scheme or any other information which may only be obtained from the Local Authority and its archives.)

NORMAL plan submissions                                             R3500.00
(a Normal plan submissions is defined as, a plan submission that does not require the application of special plan considerations such as building line relaxation, rezoning or special consent use)

Building line relaxation                                                   R4000.00
(this is when our runners meet with the roads department and building inspectors to discuss the conditions under which a building line relaxation will be granted for a particular property. Building line relaxation, when applicable, needs to be granted prior to any plan submission being done.)

Special consent use                                                             R Neg.
(Special Consent Use is usually required for structures which are larger than accepted Council standards, for example a staff quarters under 50m/sq is an acceptable size however should staff quarters exceed the size, The Local Authority may request that the structure being applied for have special consent use. This usually requires placing advertisements of notification in the local newspapers in both English and Afrikaans for a period of 28 days to allow any interested parties to lodge an objection to the proposed structures approval. Thereafter, a set of plans signed by all adjacent neighbors to the property needs to be submitted with a letter of motivation explaining the reason for this application. Only on approval of the Special Consent Use, may a normal plan submission be applied.)

SDP (Site Development Plan)                                              R4500.00
(SDP Submissions for Townhouse, Cluster, Hostel or Apartment Flats, Commercial or Industrial developments. Negotiations with roads, sewers, water, electrical, fire and health and safety departments)

Rezoning                                                                                  R Neg.
(Zoning is a plan that shows what and where can be built in a community. Not only does it control what can be built on the property but how dense the development can be.

In general the main categories are; Residential, Commercial, Industrial, Agricultural and Recreational. Each category is divided into additional categories. For example residential can include single family, low density or hi density (such as apartments).

If you visit the planning department, they will have a lot more information available for you. Unless they mentioned that they want to condemn your property, they do not have to pay you. It is more possible that the company has purchased, or wants to purchase land classed as residential and build expand onto the property.

If this is near you, then it can lower your property values. After all do you really want to look out your window at a blast furnace. There will probably be an increase in traffic, and possibly from large trucks. On the positive side the company may hire more people, which benefits the community, but not you.

You have the right to attend the hearing and speak to express your concerns. But you need to learn more about what they want to do with the property. You can speak against it at the hearing or ask that the harmful effects be mitigated. for example if you do not want to look at the factory, you can request that the company be require to landscape to hid the building. If traffic is the problem, ask for road improvements. If noise ask that no trucks before 6:00 am.

(If you do not ask what is going on, or go to the hearing, then you get what they give.)