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Illegal building can cost buyers

22 Apr 2014

Residential property buyers are always being advised to thoroughly inspect the properties on which they hope to make an offer. 

All too often, owners have gone ahead with significant additions and renovations without Council permission. Here, the help of a municipal building inspector can be called in, but it has to be recognised that, if new plans have to be drawn, this can be expensive, and getting them approved may take a long time.

This is according to Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group, who says, however, it has to be admitted that this is not an easy task. He says in the United Kingdom, it is possible to get hold of a recent inspector’s report on a building, but in South Africa, building law enforcement officers are few and far between. 

Nevertheless, he says they do have municipal inspectors, who can be asked to come to the site free of charge as they get paid by the municipality. 

This may indeed be a challenge to organise in some of our often poorly run cities, but if you suspect illegal renovations have been done it's worth going this route. But to save time first ask for a copy of the latest building plans. 

Typically, Rawson says most buyers do not have enough technical knowledge on building techniques to do a proper inspection of the home and spot possible defects. This, he says is particularly necessary in South Africa because there are still many small builders and artisans who can be, by European standards, ignorant of acceptable building procedures. 

“Ever since the apprenticeship system was done away with, mistakes and poor workmanship have been on the increase and this is one of the reasons why reputable developers prefer to use their own teams.” 

Rawson says in a recent case, a buyer found that the home he intended to buy had no weep holes in the brickwork. 

In another case, it was discovered that the builder had never insulated the ceiling, despite the home being in direct sunshine all year round and all day long. 

Apart from checking for structural and workmanship faults, Rawson says potential buyers should also insist on checking that the plans lodged with the Municipal Office conform exactly with the building as it stands today. 

“All too often, owners have gone ahead with significant additions and renovations without Council permission. Here again, the help of a municipal building inspector can be called in, but it has to be recognised that, if new plans have to be drawn, this can be expensive, and getting them approved may take a long time.”

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