When do I need a building permit in South Africa?

Whether a residential renovation or major construction, a building permit is a must. A permit is issued once building plans are submitted to the council and approved. If you are unsure as to when a permit is necessary, the following guidelines can help you with your next project.

What is a building permit?

If you are building a property from the ground up, adding a permanent structure or looking to renovate, building plans must be created by a certified architect or an architect company. These plans are submitted to the local building council for approval. A permit is issued when the architectural plans are approved, and contractors can move forward with the project.

In South Africa, building applications for the construction of property and land use are highly regulated.

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Do you require a building permit or not?

A building permit is issued for any permanent or large-scale construction projects. Temporary builds, repairs, and replacing fixtures without structural changes do not require a permit.

You need a building permit You don’t need a building permit
building a new house erecting a tool shed or poultry house smaller than 10 square meters
renovations and property modifications children’s playhouse smaller than 5 sqm
removal of and adding walls that affect structural integrity of the house replacing doors and windows without changes in the size or frame
changes to window size and addition of windows adding new roof tiles or fixing roofs with the same or similar materials
patio enclosures installing a new toilet, sink or tub provided there are no changes to the plumbing or drainage system
garage conversion into separate house a greenhouse smaller than 15sqm
building close-sided carports open-sided carport no bigger than 40 sqm
freestanding wall not exceeding 1.8m in height
private swimming pool

If you are not sure, whether you need a building permit or not, it is always best to check with your local authority.

Renovations, remodels, additions, and developments need plans drawn by an architect or an architecture firm. Permits are issued by the local council to proceed with the construction.

How to apply for a building permit?

When you decide to proceed with a construction project, a building plan drawn up by a professional engineer must be submitted by an architect or architecture company. The drawing plans along with supporting documents must be submitted to the local council.

The council will review the application and advise on approval within a stipulated timeframe.

Once the application is approved, construction can commence.

Why is a building permit a legal requirement?

  • Permits for construction ensure that all legal aspects of a future build are addressed. It ensures that new builds and alterations are safe for its intended use.
  • Failure to seek a building permit through approved plans risks a lack of approval and the issuing of severe penalties.
  • The role of an architect or architecture company is to review your application and submit to the council.

Approval for building construction and residential or commercial modifications ensures peace of mind your project is conducted safely, meets with building regulation, and is on par with updated legal standards.

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