May 272013

What the National Building Regulations say about Alterations and Additions to Existing Buildings

alterations and additions

If you build onto an existing home you will need to submit plans and comply with the “new” building regulations, including Part XA which deals with energy usage.

In general, the National Building Regulations are not retroactive in their application. This means that if you are adding to or altering a building, you won’t have to ensure that the entire building complies with new regulations that have been imposed since the building was originally erected.

This will be of particular interest to people who are concerned about the implications of the new energy efficiency legislations and regulations

But if you need plans for any additions or alterations, then you will need to ensure that the new section of the building complies.

Part A of SANS 10400, General Principles and Requirements, deals with alterations and additions.

This part of the National Building Regulations states that where an application is made to make an alteration or addition to any building that was approved before this version of the Building Regulations and Standards Act (i.e. prior to 2008):

  • The  alteration must comply with the requirements of the Act, but “consequent changes to any other part of the building which would be necessary in order to make such other part comply with the requirements of the Act shall not be required unless in the opinion of the local authority such consequent changes are necessary to ensure the health or safety of persons using the building in the altered form”
  • The addition must comply with the requirements of the Act, “but no changes to the original building shall be required unless the addition :
    1. will affect the structural strength or stability of the original building;
    2. will render any existing escape route from the original building less effective; or
    3. will affect the health of persons using the original building.

Problems May Occur When Adding to Older Buildings

In addition to the above, the law-makers are aware that problems might arise when alterations or additions are carried out on buildings that were erected in compliance with earlier building by-laws.

In the case of such an addition the local authority (which is of course the body that will approve any plans that might be required for such an addition or alteration) might decide to treat the new portion as an entirely separate part. If this happens, then the alterations will have to be designed to comply with the National Building Regulations “without having any effect on the original portion of the building”.

This is not likely to happen often with alterations, though the local authority will decide “to what extent that part of the building which is not to be altered should comply with the National Building Regulations”. Generally they will be more stringent when it comes to the application of fire regulations (Part T, Fire protection), and particularly when it comes to escape route requirements. Since this doesn’t affect “dwelling houses”, it is unlikely to have any effect on residential buildings.

The regulations state: “It is obvious that a pragmatic and essentially practical approach is necessary.”

Their primary concern is the health and safety of those people using the building. But they advise local authorities that any decisions “should be within the context of what might be practical and economically sound in an old building. If an owner or entrepreneur cannot alter a building to suit his purpose at a cost which will enable him to have a reasonable economic return, he will probably not alter the building at all. This could lead to the perpetuation of a situation which might be dangerous but one which is in compliance with old by-laws and is thus perfectly legal. Such a situation could often be considerably improved by making certain changes that are practical and economically sound even though they would not provide the same standard as would be expected in a new building.

“Both the owner and the local authority will have to consider what they are trying to achieve with the Regulations and the answer should be tempered by the knowledge of what is reasonable and practical to require of an existing building.”



  365 Responses to “Alterations & Additions”

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  1. Hi, I would like to know what the law states about garden flats being rented out and the building regulations. We are currently renting a garden flat which is separated from the main house with a thin
    asbestos wall and we are busy with a court case, thus we would like to know if it is legal. Please contact us.

    • First of all the Building Regulations do not have any bearing on legislation (or bylaws) that relate to rentals. Secondly, it is very unlikely that asbestos has been used – it’s a no-no in this day and age. Perhaps it is fibre-cement sheeting. Thirdly what is the question? If what is legal? If you mean separating the house with something like sheeting for privacy, and it’s not a permanent fixture, I don’t think there should be a problem. If it is a solid wall there should be plans. But since you are “busy with a court case” I suggest you consult your legal team.

  2. Good Evening,

    I have an existing house with two flat lets on it .Rezoned to res 3. I have approved building and site development plans to build an additional 4 bachelor flats on the premises. Must I work through the NHBRC to build the flats and if I do not can they stop me in doing so.


    • Theo, Either you or your building contractor must be registered with the NHBRC or you must apply for an exemption. I am not sure about lets, but generally their proviso is that if you “owner build” you can’t sell for five years. And yes, if you don’t have an exemption than can issue a fine and take legal action against you. Generally it’s not worth it.

  3. Where can I get a list of people that can draw up plans for extension of current buildings?

  4. Hi,

    Does one need approval when adding IBR sheeting over an existing stoep / pergola structure?

    • Andre it depends on the area to be covered and the attitude of the local authority. Thing is you need a properly designed roof structure to support the sheeting.

  5. I wants to do some alterasions to my current home .. Is there a fee payebale to the municipality and more or less what are the rates

  6. Hi,

    I own a full title property in a complex in the Kempton Park area. There is a double hollywood garage and the back of the garage is obviously open. My tenants have asked if I could brick up the back and put in a door, due to security reasons.

    Do I require plans for this or just permission from Ekurhuleni? And how do I go about obtaining permission?



  7. Hi

    What are the legal requirements to replace a standalone property flat steel roof with a proper tiled roof?


    • The fact that it is “standalone” is irrelevant. You need to be sure that the rafters meet the specs. Look at our page on roofing. You can use the tables to see if what you have meets the specs for a tiled roof. If not you will need to have the structure altered – which case the council may require plans.

  8. Please can you assist, is it possible to have more than 1 outbuilding on a residential property? Can a special consession be applied for if this is a requirement?


    • Bruce this is a local bylaw issue not something that is governed by the NAtional Building Regulations. I suggest you contact your local authority. Generally it will depend on the size of your plot and the use to which you want to put this outbuilding.

  9. Hi
    Looking for a garden shed or a wendy house to store kiddies toys in
    it……..could u send me some picsand prices

    Hope to hear from u soon


  10. Hi there

    My hubby and I are very frustrated! Our neighbors house was sold over a year ago and a developer has come in and started building causing utter chaos at our house. Firstly all our garden furniture was stolen. Then they have built 3 stories up, on our border wall! There was a garage that originally was joined at the wall but now they have gone up 2 more stories? I thought there is meant to be some gap between the borders? When we threatened to go to town council, the owner suddenly introduced himself asking for our signature for the plans? How can they build without submitting plans?

    They have even built overflow pipes on our side of the wall and are claiming its allowed?

    There was a slight crack in the one part of the border wall. And it has now for 3 times bigger.

    Please can you help us with your advice, we are desperate!


    • Shana I am not surprised that you are frustrated. I would be very angry! You don’t say where you live. As far as I know Cape Town is the only place in SA where people can build on a boundary without neighbour’s consent. But they do need approved plans, and there are certain requirements that must be upheld. The CT zoning scheme document is on this site for download. Also Jhb and Pta – see the left hand button HERE.
      DO NOT sign their documentation and DO go to the council. They are not allowed to build without plans. Clearly they are not good neighbors and there is no reason for you to play Mr/s Nice Guy. You need to protect your investment.
      They also can’t put overflow pipes that discharge onto your property. Have a look at the comments and answers in the section on stormwater disposal.
      If they have caused cracking in the boundary wall, they are liable. Whose wall is it? Do you know? There’s a lot of info in the comments on boundary walls on this site and our sister site.
      As far as theft is concerned you hopefully reported this to the police?
      Good luck and let us know what happens. People like this should not get away with it.

  11. Hi Penny, I heard you on 702 and tried calling but there was not enough time to take my call.
    Please can you advise on the following-someone at my complex is trying to sell, but alterations were made to his house a few years ago. His lawyers now want me (and everyone else at the complex) to give them my name and unit no, ID no, bank name and account no so they can obtain permission form the bond holder (bank) to have made the alterations. Surely there must be another way for them to proceed? I am not comfortable at all giving them those details, especially with the amount of ID and credit fraud happening… Do you have any advice? Looking forward to hearing from you.
    Best regards,

    • Theresa, they have absolutely no right to demand this type of information from you.
      I am not sure if I am reading the question correctly, but it sounds as if they want to get hold of each bond holder – because you won’t all have a bond with the same bank. But I can’t see how it would have anything to do with any bondholder other than this person who is trying to sell. And even then, if his bank gave him a loan at the time to cover the alterations, they should have followed the correct procedures. It is not your problem.
      You don’t say what sort of alterations they were, but generally permission would be given by the body corporate and the local authority (if plans were required). Good luck and let us know what happens.

  12. Hi,

    A neighbor approached us about a year ago whether we would approve their plans to add another level to their house behind us.
    We said we cannot – we bought in a heritage area and his house is already to floors higher than ours which means little privacy and we would loose all privacy and more light if he adds another level.

    We did not hear from him again. This week they put up high scaffolding which means that they commence without our consent.
    Surely this cannot be right?
    Would anybody be able to advise what we can do?

    Thank you kindly,

    • Marion, While your neighbour will need approved plans to build, he doesn’t need your approval unless he wants to do something that is not permitted in the National Building Regulations or the municipal bylaws. From your email address it looks as if you are in Cape Town. I suggest that you contact the CIty’s planning dept as a matter of urgency and ask them what is going on.
      However, the City has new (as of March 2013) Zoning Scheme Regulations that you download from this site that specify what people can and cannot do. For instance they have changed the requirements for neighbour’s consent relating to boundaries, by allowing people on properties up to 650 sq m the right to build right up to common boundaries in single residential zones1. These bylaws also specify maximum heights of buildings from base level to the top of the roof – 10 m for the smaller sized properties and 11 m for larger properties.
      I haven’t investigated this further, but it seems to me that people can build three storey dwellings.
      I can’t find anything in the National Heritage Resources Act, 1999 (Act No. 25 of 1999), but there may be some other legislation that protects you.
      Also, the new energy regulations are very specific in terms of fenestration (the amount of light that should enter a house), so you might object on that basis.
      And this might also help you:
      There was an Eastern Cape court case that eventually ended up with a homeowner being ordered to demolish his house. He has taken it to the Court of Appeal, and as soon as we know the outcome we will publish an article about the case. But here is an excerpt from the judgement against him:
      Extract from Joubert, “The law of South Africa,” Volume 27 1st re-issue (2002) para [317] and the authorities there cited:
      “When a landowner erects a structure on his land he must take care that he does not encroach on his neighbour’s land. This rule of neighbour law is not only applicable in cases where the building itself or its foundations encroach on neighbouring land but also where roofs, balconies or other projections encroach on the airspace above a neighbour’s.
      In the case of encroaching structures the owner of the land which is encroached upon can approach the court for an order compelling his neighbour to remove the encroachment …. Despite the above rule the court can, in its discretion, in order to reach an equitable and reasonable solution, order the payment of compensation rather than the removal of the structure. This discretion is usually exercised in cases where the costs of removal would be disproportionate to the benefit derived from the removal. If the court considers it equitable it can order that the encroaching owner take transfer of the portion of the land which has been encroached on. In such circumstances the aggrieved party is entitled to payment for that portion of land, costs in respect of the transfer of the land as well as a solatium on account of trespass and involuntary deprivation of portion of his land.”UNQUOTE
      This judgement also quotes PAJA – the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, 2000 – which you can download from this link. And there’s more info on the Dept of Justice website here. Essentially, the local authority has a responsibility to take all affected parties into consideration when passing a plan.
      Presuming your neighbour has approved plans, your best option would probably be to get an urgent interdict to stop construction. It’s going to involve lawyers, which is expensive, but at the end of the day it will probably be worth it. Good luck and let us know what happens.

  13. My neighbour has erect a high zozo hut which I can clearly see from my garden. It looks really bad from my pool side area. Can I force him to lower it a little bit? Do I have any rights? It looks terrible from my yard and its right against the wall

    • Hi Tshepo,
      The by-laws of each city are the rules that deal with this and each municipality may be different. There is also the size of the property that regulates how close to the boundary that one can or cannot build.
      Here is an exerpt from the Tshwane by-laws:
      (d) a single storey garage; car-port or shelter; laundry; private swimming-pool; change room for a private swimming-pool, tennis court, squash court; or storeroom may be erected on any portion of a building restriction area other than where such structures are adjacent to a street boundary:
      (ii) the height above natural ground level thereof shall not exceed 3,00 metres;
      So if the height of the ZoZo is more than 3m you can ask your local council to get him to lower the structure.

      Here is an update to add to the post from the same Tshwane by-laws:
      The Municipality MAY give permission:
      (ii) any other wooden and/or metal structure designed and used exclusively as a doll’s house, poultry-house, aviary, pigeon loft, potting-shed, tool-shed, coal-shed, cycle- shed, summer-house, pump-house, reservoir or dog kennel to be erected within a building restriction area, provided it is screened off behind a wall of at least 2,0 m high and not visible from a street and adjacent properties and it shall not be used for residential purposes or a Home Enterprise;

  14. Hi,

    I want to build a wood terrace on my house. It will be supported from beams on ground level and the deck will be level with first floor. What is needed with regards to plans and permissions?

    Thank you

    • Hi Espen,
      From what you say it will be a raised deck above the ground floor and level with the first floor a few meters above the ground. It depends on the size of the deck as to whether the local authority will see it as “minor building work”. You can read more on this here: minor-building-works If it is minor building work you will not need plans but you will have to notify the council in writing about what you are intending to do.

  15. Hi
    I have an old balistrade that need fixing and upgrading.

    do i need a plan for this?


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