As real estate agents we often end up in the middle between buyer and seller when it comes to alterations made to a property not being on the official municipal plans. Sellers tend to ‘conveniently’ forget about alternations made which can result in lots of extra expenses after the offer to purchase was signed.

The Building Standards and Building Regulations Act require that property owners obtain municipal approval generally in respect of all buildings, additions and renovations, no matter how small. However, in certain instances relating to smaller changes, a municipality may give written approval that the owner needs not obtain building permission for “minor building works”. “Minor building works” include, amongst others:

  1. “tool shed not exceeding 10 m2 in area;
  1. child’s playhouse not exceeding 5 m2 in area;
  1. cycle shed not exceeding 5 m2 in area;
  1. greenhouse not exceeding 15 m2 in area;
  1. open-sided car, caravan or boat shelter or a carport where such shelter or carport does not exceed 40 m2 in area;
  1. any free-standing wall constructed of masonry, concrete, steel, aluminium or timber or any wire fence where such wall or fence does not exceed 1,8 m in height at any point above ground level and does not retain soil;
  1. any pergola;
  1. private swimming-pool;
  1. change room, not exceeding 10 m2 in area, at a private swimming-pool”, etc.

These building works do not constitute a general exemption, as the municipality must still be approached for written authority that plan approval is not required. Municipalities may appear not to police compliance with this rule, but property owners are advised to obtain the necessary paperwork to avoid possible headaches down the line.