Dec 072013
 

The PAJA: A Law to Protect Your Rights

DeptJusticeHeader The PAJA: A Law to Protect Your Rights

We get questions daily about buildings blocking views, balconies overlooking neighbours’ bedrooms, building approval without neighbours’ consent, developers not putting in correct storm-water drains; complaints that the neighbours wall is on “my” property; the list goes on and on.

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People also want to know who they can contact to find out what the situation is, who approved the plans (if indeed they were approved), and how and why their neighbours are “getting away” with these activities. The good news is that there is a law in South Africa that was published in 2000 – The Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, 2000 (Act 3 of 2000) – that was promulgated to protect you.

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The Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA)

DofJ s The PAJA: A Law to Protect Your Rights

This piece of legislation is not well known, and it is there essentially to ensure that the government (and all its departments) act in a fair way when decisions are taken that might affect any individual. It is your basic human right to have just, fair and equitable administrative action.

The South African Constitution guarantees that any action taken by any administration in South Africa has to be reasonable, lawful and must follow procedures. It must also be fair in relation to all concerned.

The law covers all levels and all departments in all the provinces:

  • Departments at national, provincial or local government level,
  • The national, provincial and local legislatures,
  • The national and provincial executives,
  • The judiciary (or courts),
  • ‘Parastatals’ such as Eskom and Telkom.

We will refer to those that deal with building regulations and the building by-laws in South Africa.

Allowance has also been made for anybody to ask for an explanation from any of the government or municipal departments regarding why they made a certain decision. You also have the right to request reasons as to why a certain decision was made that negatively affects you. The law states that it is your right to ask for reasons and they cannot refuse you this right.

It is important to note that these requests and replies should all be done in writing. If you are given verbal response it’s you prerogative to accept it, but if you aren’t happy, you have every right to demand that it is given to you in writing. Of course it is always best to have this type of thing in writing, particularly when there is a substantial dispute.

The PAJA addresses the fact that if after reasons have been supplied there is still disagreement. If this is the case, then provision has been made for a review of “the administrative action” by a court or a tribunal.

Once you have identified something you are not happy with (either issues mentioned above or other problems you are facing) that you feel that the relevant department should have consulted or informed you about, you must follow the correct procedures:

  1. Request the reasons, in writing, from the department that made the initial decision. This must be done within 90 days of finding out the decision has been made. If you are not satisfied with the reasons given then…
  2. You must use the internal appeal procedure for that department (see below), if they have one. Not all departments have an internal appeal system. If they don’t you can then…
  3. Go to court (see below)
  4. Use other remedies (see below)

To help you we have two pdf documents as guidelines when making requests:

Form to request reasons PDF

Form for Prior Notice PDF

I want to request reasons for what has been allowed—What do I do?

Firstly and most importantly your request must be in writing. State clearly, with reference details, which decision your request is for. Next say why you think the decision that they made is wrong. You must include all your details including your full name, postal address, email, telephone/cellular phone contact details and/or fax number. Your letter can be sent by post, fax, email or delivered by hand. Make sure that you send faxes or emails to the correct address or number. It might be best to deliver your request so that you get a signature and proof of delivery. If you do deliver by hand, get a signature and full name of the person who takes the letter, and include the date and time next to the signature.

How will they respond? What reasons will they give?

They must not try to persuade you that their decision was the correct one. What they must do is give you a clear reason why and how they reached their decision. All your questions that you asked must be answered.

How long will they take to respond?

They must give you a satisfactory reply within 90 days of receiving the request.

Can they tell me the reasons over the phone?

All reasons should be in writing, unless you accept reasons given to you verbally. If not you have full right to ask them to please put their response in writing.

What is the appeal process? How does it work?

There are a few departments that have the facility for an internal appeal. If the department you are dealing with has such a procedure then you have to use this first before you can consider further action. Again you will have to put your demand in writing and say that you are not satisfied with the reasons given to you up until now. Then you request that the matter be taken to the relevant appeal section. The next step is to go to court.

How do I take my case to court?

If you are not satisfied with the reasons given to you by the appeal division, or if there is no appeal board, then you can take the matter to court. You must ask a court to review your case within six months of the internal appeal, or if there is no internal appeal, within six months of the decision. Unfortunately though the court review can be costly.

Are there any other cheaper options?

The internal appeal (if there is one) is usually free.

There are a few other options such as:

  • Asking a political party in your area to help,
  • Putting your complaint to the Provincial MEC for that particular department (eg the local authority’s planning department),
  • You can find out who the Minister is, and who is responsible for that department, and write to him/her and explain your problem.
  • There are quite a few non-government organisations (NGOs) that you could ask for help. These are usually free.
  • Paralegals are there to assist people in awkward situations.
  • If you suspect that there has been any corruption involved in a decision that affects you, then you can call the public protector and give them all the details. The toll-free number is 0800-112-040
  • There are legal aid boards and justice centres in most of the major centres that will assist you free of charge. You can ask the legal aid officer at your nearest court to arrange a lawyer, free of charge, to assist you. You can also call the legal aid board on 021-481 2700.

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  22 Responses to “The PAJA: A Law to Protect Your Rights”

Comments (22)
  1. Hi,

    How would I go about getting a template of a contract, that I could possibly use, between a builder and a homeowner who is doing alterations to their property?

    Thanks in advance.

    Regards

    Charlotte

    • Hi Charlotte, I have just uploaded a couple of contract guidlines for you on our “Download Regulations” page, just scroll down and look for “BASIC BUILDING CONTRACT-NHBRC” & “Model Agreement-NHBRC” & “Contract Data for JBCC Principal Building Agreement” & “PRINCIPAL BUILDING AGREEMENT – JBCC”

  2. I have a property that has adequate land for me to develop. I now want to construct a workshop at the back of my house but I need to know what regulations i have to follow in order to put up this workshop. The size of this workshop will be an estimate of 250sqm. What would be the guidlines to follow in order for me not to break any laws. Please advise!!!!!!

    • Hi Luke, It sounds as though the 250 sqm workshop will be for some sort of industrial work being so big. The first thing to establish from your local council planning department is whether you can get permission for the type of work that you want to do in your area. If the council ok the workshop then you can get an architect or competent person to get the plans drawn up for you. Many of the larger steel workshop manufacturing companies offer to do the plans for you included in the price of the structure.

  3. Hi, any advise welcome,I aquired the services of a building contractor to build a small holiday home at the coast, I was given a tender and agreed to proceed with the building. I have since been bombard with extra cost which I expected to be included in the tender eg. Facia boards, TLB of excavation , a concrete apron around the the house, special under ground drainage to mention just few. My question is am I been ripped off? Surely a professional NHBRC Registered building contarctor should know the requirement and therefore includes these cost when tendering.
    I have spend +- 45% more than the original tender.

    • Michelle, You need to ascertain what was specified in the original contract. If work has been done that was not included in the original quotation, the builder should have got your agreement in writing to go ahead with “extras” being doing them and charging you for them.
      Without being a lawyer or knowing all the facts, it sounds to me as if there may be items that are required by the National Building Regulations that are being charged as extras. If so, my personal opinion is that use you are being ripped off – because a builder cannot leave off essentials that are required to meet the NBR specs.
      I am not sure whether the NNHBRC will be helpful in this regard – I would contact them though… Alternatively you will need to go to a lawyer who has both building and contract knowledge, and get assistance.

  4. The boundary wall between the back of my property and my neighbours property has partially collapsed.What is the situation with regard to having it repaired – who should get a quote, what is the responsibility with regard to the cost of having it fixed?

    • Heather there are two issues – 1) who owns the wall and 2) what/who caused the wall to collapse. Both will impact on whose responsibility it is to fix the wall – failing which share the costs.

  5. please advise…we have lived in our home for 21years.
    People have bought the home in front of us as their holiday home and are now turning it into a double story which will take away our sea view.
    Can we prevent this in anyway?
    Thank you in advance

    • Probably not Tish unless there is some local bylaw that may come into play. You can try lodging an objection via the PAJA but I really have no idea how successful this would be. You could also try lodging an objection with the local council. This is something we all need to consider when buying a property, even if there is an existing building on the plot in front. All I can suggest is that you double check to ensure that they follow the requirements of the NBR regarding plans. So sorry I can’t be more helpful or positive. Good luck.

  6. Hello,

    Can you please share some light.

    I bought a house in December 2012. In Winter 2013 i noticed my roof leaking. I contacted the developers and took them a few months to have someone come out 4 times. Each time they came it was in summer so I couldnt confirm that the roof was fixed. Recently i contacted my insurance for the roof, and with their damage report it was shown and advised that the roof is leaking due to poor workmanship and that they wont cover it and i should contact the developers again. Yesterday 28.05.2014 my fiance contacted the developers and infromed them of the issue. They told they cannot assist because the warranty of the roof was only for a year. I explained that this was a on going issue and that it was not fixed correctly and we have photos and report stating and i was denied assistance.

    Can you please advice what i should do as i have emails dating back informing them about the roof and supporting documents from my insurance company.

    Regards
    Ronelle Paulse

    • Ronelle if the company has not fixed the original problem they are still liable. However this might mean litigation. They cannot hide behind a one-year warranty – however this might unfortunately be up to a court to make the final judgement. You should be covered by the Consumer Protection Act but I am not sure of the route you need to go. I have given you a link that might be helpful.

  7. Subject:
    request for advice

    Message:
    Dear Sir/Madam

    I hereby wish to request an advice. In 2009 I bought a house in Kilner Park, Pretoria.
    I did not know there were latent defects until recently. These relates to a roof which is leaking and electric faults all over the house.
    What legal recourse do I have if any. Please note that I am looking forward to your advise.

    Yours sincerely,
    Zamayedwa Seuntjie Nofemela

    • Zamayedwa, Since a period of five years has passed since you bought the property, it is unlikely that you have any legal recourse at all. They are probably a result of wear and tear if you have only just noticed these faults. I can’t imagine how you could live in a house for five years without noticing electrical faults.

  8. Subject:
    Report Builders

    Message:
    Att:Housing regulation offices
    May i know if you find the place where I can report this contractor because now things are getting worse they abandoned the site like this please refer to attachment they now don’t even understand the plan .
    They have been playing hide and seek with Municipal inspectors as well for inspecting the roof.the walls plastered 3 weeks back it is cracking.suddenly they change their name again to be Quarry Road hardware and construction so their fraud won’t be picked up.
    I went to the nearest police station in vain they tried to call them to make they come they will agree but don’t make it.
    Please help
    Worried house owner
    Charlotte

    • Charlotte you should try contacting the NHBRC and give them all the details – names etc. They have a fraud hotline that you will see if you go to the link I have given you. The municipality should also take action.

  9. Subject:
    Plans

    Message:
    On avaerage, how long should it take for council to approve plans and is there a way to jolt their memory?

    • Owen it is hugely variable. I think all you can do is ask the person who is handling your plans (the competent person) to make enquiries. In the “old” days a homeowner could go in an “walk” plans through council. It is no longer permitted.

  10. We are going through the same type of situation, Our neighbor has added a second story to his house and very nicely placed a sliding door with a balcony that makes it possible to look into every section of my house and garden I think there is one room that he can’t see we have had to put a few plants in front of our main bedroom so my wife and I have some privacy, I contacted our local counsel and found out that he does not have his plans approved but now we have to wait for something to be done in the meantime we have to deal with his constant invasion of our privacy and it’s driving us nuts and making things very uncomfortable wish there was some way we could force him to close it off

    • Hi Christian, Read the full story on this page about the PAJA. Firstly inform your neighbour in writing of your intention to report this and ask him to rectify the problem. If there is no response or he refuses then put it in writing to your local building inspector and put them to terms to rectify their decision to approve plans that affect you negatively. There are two forms that you can download on this page that will help with your submission. Please keep in touch and let us know the outcome.

  11. Subject:
    neighbour with monster extention

    Message:
    our neighbour recently extended their home. it is now 2 stories high. they hav covered our entire back view with their monster building and blocked satelite signal-we hav had to move our dstv dish to another spot on our expense.the house is right up to our boundry.they hav not plastered or painted the section that looks into our yard. it makes our yard look so ugly. recently we discovered that they are dumping their old stuff in our yard bcoz their window looks into a part of our back yard. who do we contact to get this sorted as dealing with our neighbours privatly has proven to be a mission

    • Hi Joan, You do not say where in SA you are because every municipality has different zone rules. You need to contact your local municipality and find out what the regulations for your area are, the numbers can be found here: municipality-contact You must ask if they needed your permission to build and what the building lines are. They are not allowed to dump anything, you must also report this to the municipality. If you do not get any help there then read this page about the PAJA how you are protected: paja-law-protect-rights

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