What to consider when renovating your property in South Africa

When attending to any alterations, additions, or construction work at your property, including the construction of a new building, the National Building Regulations, and Building Standards Act 103 of 1977 (the “NHBRC”) requires that you obtain approval from your local municipality. While building plan approval is required for some minor works, such as altering your boundary walls, constructing a Wendy House or swimming pool, you will not need to submit professional architectural plans with these applications and a sketch plan will suffice.


When attending to major alterations such as extending your home, removing walls or constructing a garage, you will need a professional architect registered with the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (“SACAP”) to prepare your building plans for submission to your local municipality.


When getting ready to submit your building plan application, you will need copies of the following documents for submission to the municipality:

  1. Copy of your title deed, which can be obtained from the Deeds Office.

  2. Copy of the surveyor-general diagram for your property, which can be downloaded free of charge from the SG Website.

  3. Zoning details for your property, which can be obtained from the municipality.

  4. Copies of any previously approved building plans held by the municipality (if you do not have copies of the existing plan, a separate application has to be submitted to request copies).

Depending on the type of building plan approval required, the municipality may require a Conveyancer’s Certificate for your property. This entails appointing a conveyancer to attend to a pivot deed search at the Deeds Office – the conveyancer will search the historical title deeds for your property to determine whether there are any restrictive title deed conditions prohibiting the proposed renovations. Restrictive title deed conditions can restrict the use of the land, the height of the buildings, the number of buildings on the site, the percentage of land that may be built upon, and other such restrictions.

Should there be a restrictive title deed condition preventing the approval of your building plan, you would have to submit yet another application to the municipality for the removal of the condition. This application requires advertising, as well as publishing the approval in the Government Gazette.

While sectional title properties will not necessarily have the same restrictive title deed conditions as a free-standing erf, they do have the added obstacle of obtaining body corporate approval. Most sectional title schemes outline their internal building plan approval process in the conduct rules for the scheme. As part of the body corporate approval, the trustees will usually require that approval from the municipality be obtained and submitted to them before any construction work can commence.

If your free-standing property is part of an estate with a Homeowners Association (“HOA”), you too will have the added obstacle of obtaining approval from the Homeowners Association. HOA’s often have a separate building policy, alternatively, their building plan approval process can be found in the HOA constitution.

Once you have all of the necessary documentation required for your building plan approval application, the local municipality’s process is fairly straightforward, for your major alterations it is recommended that you consult with a SACAP professional to attend to the entire submission process on your behalf.

All application forms referred to above can be downloaded from your local municipality’s website, or alternatively, you can visit your local municipal office for further information.

Happy Renovations!

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).