The consequences of building without approved building plans

Izak Trollip, a SACAP-registered architectural professional, writes:

To all owner builders, developers, contractors and/or bakkie builders: Firstly I would like to stress the fact that all municipalities are tightening the rope on all of us regarding the implementation of the National Building Regulations (NBR) and SANS 10400 laws. They are now, without prior notice, delivering “final notifications” to stop any and all building work currently underway, that does not have building documentations on site, such as approved building plans/documentation.

It is of utmost importance that everyone adheres to the NBR, and starts by appointing a competent person for the project in hand. Without the necessary approval, we can’t go on with construction of any structures such as additions to houses, lapas and carports with solid roof coverings, be it tiles, metal sheeting or thatch roofs. You will be stopped or notified to stop construction as soon as it is found that no plans where submitted for approval by the authorities.

On the other hand, it creates problems, such as a project that my company “Za-Kikki Architecture” is currently busy with in Johannesburg. The client has for many years just kept on building with plans, but the plans were never submitted for approval. Now, years later, three of the “illegal” structures burnt down. When the client tried to claim from his insurer, the insurer requested the approved building plans of all the structures. This is where it starts getting frustrating.

The architect, engineer, fire specialist and the municipality have to overwork themselves and take responsibility for these “illegal” structures, just because the client is in default with measures that were supposed to be in place years ago. I hope you understand the “frustrating” part? It’s a snowball effect that could have been avoided, and the client would have had much less stress regarding his claim. What if someone was killed in this incident?

Now, everyone who is reading this and understands what I’m trying to avoid in future, please inform your family, friends or whoever think that they will never get caught, that it’s not about “not getting caught”, it’s about consequences.

It’s fine if you pay your insurance every month, but in situations like this, you’ll be the one suffering the consequences or getting the short end of the stick.

Remember: The first place to start, is with the architect and/or engineer. They’ll give you the correct information regarding what you can and should do to make your “dream” a less stressful project, as it’s not comfortable to look over your shoulder as you do not want to get caught. Prevention is better (and less expensive) than the cure when it comes to building. Contact a trusted professional in your area or feel free to email me on for advice regarding any of the above concerns.

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