Our panel of experts has received a letter from a reader relating to a previous column about the drawing up of building plans way in advance. In that column our experts explained that building plans become invalid after a year.
The reader says he bought a house last year. Before moving in, he enlarged his courtyard and got permission from the neighbours to build one of the walls on the boundary between the properties.
He has since found out that the neighbours had permission from the previous owner to build a new kitchen and a new courtyard on the same boundary. The neighbour has started construction using building plans that were approved two years ago.
The reader says he has contacted the local council and they are willing to allow the neighbours to build with those plans. His other concern is that the new roofline could drain off into his courtyard.
He wants to know if there is anything he can do if the council does not apply the 12-month rule regarding building plans and if the neighbour refuses to divulge the approved plans. He also asks if he should not have been informed of the neighbours’ plans when he bought his house.
Property Poser’s legal experts reiterate that in terms of sub-section (7)(4) of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act 103 of 1977, any approval granted by a local authority lapses after 12 months.
That is unless the erection of the building started or proceeded within the said period or unless the local authority extended the period at the request of the applicant concerned.
Anyone who wants to dispute the interpretation or application by a local authority of any national building regulation or any building regulation or by-law can appeal to a review board as provided for in Regulation 9 of the act.
A written notice to appeal must be lodged with the Director-General of Trade and Industry, setting out the grounds on which the appeal is based and a copy must go to the local municipality.
All appeals must be accompanied by plans, specifications and relevant documents to enable the board to make an informed decision. Copies of these must also be delivered to the local authority (a notice of appeal must include a fee of R100).
The local authority has 21 days from the date of notification to forward its reasons to the Director-General. If there are comments on additional information obtained by the board, such comments must be forwarded within 14 days from the date on which the board provided this additional information to the local authority.
The rules of evidence do not apply to these proceedings and the board may determine any relevant fact and regulate its own procedure as it sees fit.
The reader can bring an interdict against his neighbour in the meantime, preventing him from proceeding with construction and appeal to the board to force them to review all the plans.
If the neighbour still proceeds with construction, the reader can claim for any damages he may suffer as a result of any defective plans. The seller or the estate agent should definitely have informed the reader of the fact that the neighbours have permission to build on the boundary line as this affects the market value of his property.
Unfortunately it will be extremely difficult to get any redress from the seller and it will be a long and tedious process in court to claim for any damages suffered. The best option would be to appeal to the board and force the municipality to review the plans.
The reader should try to sort this problem out as soon as possible, because it will affect the future value of his property.
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