Building Plans Chaos In Johannesburg City Council: The Inside Story

Here are the observations from experienced and qualified Architects, who give us the inside story about the chaos and delays in the Johannesburg City Council, regarding the Approval of House Building Plans.

WHY IS THERE CHAOS AND DELAYS IN HAVING BUILDING PLANS APPROVED ?

  1. The major problem is a lack of knowledge and experience;
  2. Most examiners are not trained as Architectural Technologists and/or Draughtsmen: when they should be.
    • Some examiners are not up to speed with the ever changing legislation; such as the recently revised National Building Regulations;
  3. The is no uniformity in interpreting plans; which results in uncertainty and unpredictability.
  4. No personal accountability for examiner decisions;
  5. Entire files are lost;
  6. Staff Shortages cause delays;
    • There is no delegation. So if the Examiner goes on leave, your Application has to wait until he returns!
  7. Examiners try to avoid discussing problems or their interpretations, with the public and are not always in their offices during work hours.
  8. Because municipal staff do not have assistants and there is no-one else to delegate to, if the appointed official is not available , one has to return the following work day, to try and find the  official. The same applies to staff who are absent on leave or who are away on a training course.
  9. Unqualified and illegal “Plan Runners” jump the queue, by giving gifts to examiners. This delays other applications.

THE SOURCE OF MANY PROBLEMS : IS ILLEGAL HOME RENOVATIONS

  1. There is a widespread belief that it does not matter if one’s home renovations do not receive Council approval.
    • For instance, it is a mistake to believe that one does not need approved drawings for internal alterations, wooden sheds/dwellings/log cabins without foundations.
    • All structures, of any sort that have a roof, must have approved plans before construction commences.
  2. All of the Mortgage Lending Banks (except one) require approved building plans, before the bond and transfer can be registered.
    • The result is that the whole process invariably, has to  start from scratch,  because:-
      • Some structures encroach over a building line or servitude;
      • Many thatched roofs have no lightning and fire protection.

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO GET BUILDING PLAN APPROVAL ?

These are very approximate estimates, (as at February 2020), as some examiners are much quicker than others.

  1.      6 – 8 weeks –  if no Town Planning problems;
  2.      12-4 weeks-  if delayed by Building Line Relaxation;
  3.      28 weeks if delayed by Heritage (“PHRA-G”) Applications;
  4.      6 months – if delayed by Consent Use Applications;
  5.     12 months – if delayed by Re-zoning Applications;

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO AVOID THESE DELAYS ?

The bottom line is that the average Council Building Plan Examiner does not have enough knowledge, expertise and experience. For those who are not qualified : their work and prevailing legislation is too complex for them to render an efficient service.

The analogy is expecting a nurse to attend to complex open heart surgery : the same applies to the Council Building Plans Department. Under qualified staff cannot be expected to perform such specialised Architectural work.

The only solution is to make sure that you appoint an experienced Architect, who is capable of avoiding some of the above delay issues.

A delay in providing approved building plans will delay the grant of a Home Loan to your purchaser and this problem could cause the entire sale to collapse, if a further extension is not agreed in advance.

Also many property transfers have been stalled, just before registration of transfer, by disgruntled cash purchasers who demand Approved Building Plans, at the last minute.

Accordingly, It is advisable to appoint an Architect well in advance before you sell your property.

Share this: