Frequently Asked Questions - RatioTect
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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What if no building inspector notices your illegal alterations ?

​A. They could come back to haunt you years later – when you try to sell the house and the prospective buyer asks to see approved plans.

Q. What if someone fails to submit a plan?

​A. If you’ve chosen to build without having the plans approved, a building inspector is entitled to enter your property and order construction to stop immediately. He could even obtain a court order for the structure to be demolished, at your expense, and you would be liable for legal costs as well. In serious cases, you could be fined or sent to prison.​​​

Q.  How long does it take for a Building Plan to be Approved at Council?

A.   It depends on the complexity of the plan and whether you need approval from the town planning department (for example for Building Line Relaxation or a Consent Use Application).  Once a plan is submitted it should be approved in a month to six weeks.  You might need to also get PHRAG (Provincial Heritage Authority Gauteng Approval before submitting plans.

Q.  How long does it take to draw up Plans?

A.  It depends on what is involved, generally it will take us 2 weeks to a month to draw up a set of plans.

Q.  What is the process for drawing up plans?

A.  We will need to come out to site to take measurements and see how your planned additions will fit in with the rest of the buildings on site and on surrounding stands.  We will also establish exactly what your requirements are.  Once we have copies of previously approved plans and the Zoning Certificate and SG Diagram from Council we will draw up floorplans which we will email through to you.  Once you are happy with the layout we will draw up a first draft (allow 10 days to 2 weeks for this) for your approval.  It will take a few days to prepare the plans for Council and get Engineering sign off (if required).

Q. What is a Building Line?

A.  A Building Line is an invisible line on your property demarking the point up to where you can build.  Typically Building Lines are 1-3m on street boundaries and 2m on the sides and back (for double storeys).

Q.  How long does Building Line Relaxation take?

A.  Once you have your neighbour’s consent and have submitted the plans to the Town Planning Department – it takes 2-3 months for approval.  For more information on Building Line Relaxation check out our Articles page.

Q.  Why do I need title deeds for Council Submission?

A.   There are often restrictive clauses within Title Deeds – for example building lines, servitudes or prohibitions on wooden structures – which could affect the outcome of your application.

Q.  Do my plans need to be approved before I start Building?

A.  Yes, no building is allowed without approved plans.

Q.  I have already started building without plans – what do I need to do?

A.  You will need to engage the services of a Structural Engineer as well as an Architect / Designer.  The Engineer will need to inspect and certify the new building and the Architect/Designer will submit them to Council for you.

Q.  How long are my approved plans valid for?

A. One year after approval, you will need to resubmit the plans (a small administration fee is payable) to renew them after a year has passed if you haven’t started building already).

Q.  What is a Zoning Certificate?

A.  A Zoning Certificate indicates the use of your property – Residential, Agricultural or Business, the coverage (building footprint on the stand), FAR (Floor Area Ratio), parking and density (how many dwellings/buildings you are allowed).

Q.  What is Coverage?

A.  Coverage is the building footprint on your stand.  Your Zoning Certificate will indicate what percentage (usually 30 – 50%) you are allowed.

Q. What is F.A.R.?

A.  F.A.R. is your Floor Area Ratio.  This is the proportion of living space (not garages, lapas or covered patios) to the stand area that you are allowed.

Q.  What is an SG Diagram?

A.  An SG (Surveyor General) Diagram is a map of your property showing the dimensions, the ajoining properties and stand orientation.

Q.  What is a Servitude and can I build over the Servitude?

A.  A Servitude is a portion of your land – usually along a boundary – that the Council has reserved for services (like electricity or sewerage for example).  No building (including temporary structures such as decks or garden sheds) can take place in a Servitude and no trees can be planted.

Q.   What is a SDP (Site Development Plan) ?

A.    A SDP (Site Development Plan) is a map of the property showing all the buildings and the coverage and FAR etc for the whole site.  You will need a SDP if you are in a complex and if your property is zoned Business, Commercial, Special Use or Residential 2 or 3.

Q.  When do I need to call the Building Inspector?

A.  You will need to call the Building Inspector after you have dug the foundations for a trench inspection (before the concrete has been poured), for a drain inspection after the connections have been made, at lintol height and again at roof height.  You will need to contact your Building Inspector between 8am – 10am to make an appointment.  Your building inspector may also want to make additional site visits.

Q.  Why do I need an Occupation Certificate?

A.  An Occupation Certificate is required before any building can be occupied – this is to safeguard the owner and to ensure that all requirements have been met – in other words that a building is safe to be inhabited.   For more information on Occupation Certificates check out our Articles page.

Q.  When do I need a Structural Engineer?

A.  This depends on several factors – first of all you will need an Engineer to Design and Certify Concrete Floor and Roof Slabs.  You will also need an Engineer to certify free standing walls over 1.8m in height.  Some areas have poor soil conditions and will need an Engineer to sign off on the foundations.  An Engineer is also required to sign off on steel construction, suspended wooden floors and roofs with spans greater than 9 – 10m.  If your structure is ‘As Built’ or Illegal you will also need a Structural Engineer to sign off the plans and inspect the foundations and roof etc.

Q.  Do I need my neighbour’s consent to get my plans approved?

A.  It’s best that neighbour sign the plans before you submit them to Council, if you are going over a Building Line or applying for any other Town Planning Consent you will need your neighbour’s consent.

Q.  When do I need to appoint a Town Planner?

A.  You will need a Town Planner for Sub-Divisions, Consolidations, Re-Zoning, Liquor Licenses, C and Township Establishment.

Q.  What is SACAP?

A.  SACAP (South African Council for the Architectural Profession) is the governing body for Architects and Designers.  It is a legal requirement for anyone practicing architecture to be registered with SACAP.  A full list of registered professionals is on their website –

Q.  How close to the Boundary can I build?

A. This depends on what you are planning to build, whether it is double storey or single storey and what the local zoning regulations are.  Generally you can not build closer that 3m from any street boundary and 1m from a side boundary.   Please check with your local Council before you start building.

Q. How close to a Swimming Pool can I build?

A.  You can build up to 1m away from a Swimming Pool.

Q.  What is a Firewall?

A.  A Firewall is a double brick wall extending up to the top of the roof rafters or underneath a concrete slab.  You will need a fire wall between adjacent dwellings or between a garage and the house.  You will also need a Firedoor is your garage adjoins the house.  If you are building a garage or have a garage adjoining your house it’s best to put in a Fire Rated Ceiling.

Q.  How deep must my foundations be and do I need steel in the foundations?

A.  The minimum requirements for foundations are 500mm to the top of the concrete – which must be at least 230mm deep by 600mm wide with 100mm widening around columns, and a minimum of 4 courses of brickwork to ground level.  However you must consult a Structural Engineer before starting any building work.  The requirements for foundations change from area to area according to what you are planning to build, whether you are planning to add additional storeys and the soil conditions and slope of the site.

Q.  Do I need plans for a Boundary wall?

A.  If your Boundary wall is lower than 1.8m high then you will not need to submit plans to Council.  However if your wall is higher you will need to have plans drawn up and submitted.  You will also need a Structural Engineer to certify the wall.

Q.  I want build a cottage on my property – what are the rules?

Firstly you will have to check on the Zoning Requirements and Town Planning Scheme for your area.  Regions falling under the Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality do allow more than one dwelling on a stand.  However in some cases you will need to hire a Town Planner to apply for Consent for a Second Dwelling.

Q.  What pitch should my roof be?

A.  This depends on what the roof covering is – the minimum pitch for tiled roofs is 17.5 degrees, 7 degress for an IBR or Chromadek roof and 10 degrees for a fibre cement (nutec) roof.

Q.    Do I need plans for a Wendy House?

A.    The rules are the same for a Wendy House as for any other structure – whether it be brick or other building method.  You will need to have plans drawn up and approved by the Local Authority before you can erect a Wendy House.

Q.  What is a Deviation Plan?

A.  It’s quite common for changes to be made during the Building process, a Deviation plan showing the changes / additions to the new building will need to be submitted to Council (together with a copy of the previously approved plans).  You will not be able to get an Occupation Certificate without approved plans for the changes you have made.