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Do I need plans for this renovation? PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 27 March 2011

A reader has written to us with the following question about a house they are considering buying and to which they would they would like to make some renovations.

Our reader says:

At present, the double garage has already been converted into a workspace of sorts (the owner's wife runs a salon from the front room). It has inner walls dividing it into separate rooms and a concrete floor. It has two sliding doors and many windows.

Basically, we need to convert it into a liveable granny flat for the mum-in-law. We need to put in a kitchen and a bathroom (along with a geyser), however there is already a sewerage pipe running along the side of two of the walls (the owner even offered to install a sink in the would-be kitchen). We will not need to move the inner or outer walls (we need only put an arch in one) and we need to put doors in where there are only gaps in the walls. We also need to paint, tile and install ceilings.

What sort of approval will we require for these renovations/alterations? We have been told that we do not need to get approval if we do not move outer walls, but we have also been told that we need to have plans approved when adjusting the plumbing.

Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

Les responds as follows:-

Your main problem is not a building one but a zoning one.

The issue here would be whether your Title Deed allows a "second dwelling" to be erected on your property which is what a granny flat is classified as, or if it stipulates that you may only erect one residential building.

The second issue is whether the Council Zoning scheme for your area allows a second dwelling to be erected on the property. There are factors that will sometimes permit separate living where there are interleading doors, etc, but this will have to be cleared with your local the council.

On the issue of the requirement to submit plans, any alteration to change the use of a room like installing a bathroom or kitchen will require a plan as it affects the sewage disposal which in most municipalities attracts rates.  Plans will also be required because of zoning and the second
dwelling issue, even if you do not need to move any walls.

The other issue to look at is whether there are approved plans for the conversion of the garage into a salon. If those alterations have not been approved then you would need to submit plans for that anyway. You can check at your local municipality if plans were submitted and approved as well. If plans were not submitted and approved and you purchase the property, then you will be liable to pay the fines that the municipality will impose for illegal building. This last point will however be covered by the new Consumer Protection Act when it comes into operation in April but I would still do a little investigation before you sign the purchase agreement.

I hope that this helps.


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