Are you, as a seller, required to provide approved copies of your property's building plans to potential buyers in South Africa? This question often arises during the sales process, and the straightforward answer is “No”. However, the full response is a bit more nuanced. It’s the buyer’s prerogative to request these plans and even include a clause to that effect in the offer to purchase (OTP). Being prepared for such a scenario is a wise approach.

Let’s delve into the implications of selling a property without approved plans and discuss the consequences of undertaking construction work without proper approvals.

Where to Obtain Your Property’s Building Plans

If you constructed your home or made extensions to your property, you would have been required to create and gain approval for the necessary plans from your local municipality. In this case, you should have a copy of these plans readily available.

However, if this isn’t the case, you can typically obtain the plans from your local municipality. Occasionally, municipalities may not have these plans in their records for two primary reasons.

Firstly, unforeseen events like fires or computer crashes may have damaged or erased their records and plans. Secondly, in the rare instance of an older, unaltered building, the local authority might not have any plans on record. When this occurs, it becomes the responsibility of the current property owner to
have the necessary plans drafted.

What to Do If Municipal Plans Don’t Match Your Property

If the building plans obtained from the municipality do not accurately represent your property’s actual layout and structures, it's essential to determine whether these differences qualify as major or minor alterations.

Distinguishing Major vs. Minor Building Work

In general, all building work on your property should undergo an approval process, which entails submitting plans to the municipality before commencing construction. However, minor building work is an exception and doesn't require planning permission. Examples of minor building work include:

1. Structures not intended for habitation, such as garden sheds, small playhouses (less than 5 m²), pergolas, or gazebos.

2. Roof repairs or replacements using similar materials.

3. Internal alterations that do not compromise the structural integrity of the building. For instance, demolishing a load-bearing wall to combine two rooms would necessitate planning permission.

Exceptions That Require Planning Approval

Depending on the municipality, two exceptions to the rule might apply:

1. The installation of solar or alternative power systems may require planning approval to ensure compliance with safety standards.

2. Swimming pool construction could require planning approval due to extensive excavation work and specific regulations regarding pool security and access introduced by some local authorities.

If the approved plans do not accurately reflect your property, and the changes constitute significant structural alterations, such as additional rooms or outbuildings like garden cottages, the responsible action is to submit new plans for approval. Failure to do so could lead to plan rejection, penalties for the
owner, and even demands for the removal of illegal structures. Consequently, most buyers will insist on up-to-date approved plans for the property.


According to the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act 103 of 1977, property owners are obligated to obtain approval from their municipality for building plans before commencing construction. Gaining approval after a structure is built can be a more complicated process, often requiring consultation with professionals and navigating the regulatory framework to ensure proper registration with the municipality.

Voetstoots Clause

In South Africa, many contracts include a voetstoots clause, a legal concept based on Roman-Dutch law. Essentially, it means that you buy the property “as is” without any guarantees or warranties. However, as of February 2022, when the Property Practitioners Act came into effect, it is a legal requirement for
sellers to disclose any known defects or issues with their property to both the agent and the buyer. Both the seller and the agent must sign a mandatory property defects disclosure form as part of the OTP.

What’s the Relevance of Building Plans?

Having approved building plans can serve as evidence to prospective buyers that your property complies with local authority and national building regulations. This is your insurance against potential legal actions because, under South African law, a property sold without approved plans is considered to have
a latent defect.

If a buyer discovers the absence of approved plans without prior disclosure, they have the right to cancel the deal. If, however, they uncover this after the property has transferred to their name and find other concealed latent defects, they may have legal recourse against the seller.

A Final Word

Ensuring you have approved plans before initiating the sale of your property is a prudent move. Providing plans can preemptively address issues that might otherwise disrupt the transaction later in the process.

Get in contact BRITE-X today.