Illegal renovations and substandard builders can prove costly in the long-run

Buyers of residential property are always being advised to inspect thoroughly the properties on which they hope to make an offer. However it has to be admitted that this is not an easy task, says Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group.

“In the United Kingdom,” said Rawson, “it is usually possible to get hold of a recent building inspector’s report on the building, but in South Africa these building law enforcement officers, as we call them, are few and far between. Nevertheless, we do have municipal inspectors, who in my experience are almost always very helpful – and they can be asked to come to the site, which they do free of charge as they are paid by the municipality.”

Typically, said Rawson, most buyers do not have anywhere near enough technical knowledge on building techniques to do a proper inspection of the home and spot its defects. This, he says, is particularly necessary in South Africa because we still have many small builders and artisans who can be, by European standards, ignorant of acceptable building procedures.

“Ever since the apprenticeship system was done away with,” said Rawson, “mistakes and poor workmanship have been on the increase and this is one of the reasons why reputable developers prefer to use their own teams.”

In a recent case, he said, a buyer found a home which he intended to buy which had no weep holes in the brickwork.

In another case it was discovered that the builder had never insulated the ceiling, despite the home being in direct sunshine all the year round and all day long.

Apart from checking for structural and workmanship faults, added Rawson, potential buyers should also insist on checking that the plans lodged with the Municipal Office conform exactly with the building as it stands today.

All too often, said Rawson, owners have gone ahead with significant additions/renovations without Council permission. Here again, he said, the help of a municipal building inspector can be called in, but it has to be recognized that, if new plans have to be drawn, this can be expensive and getting them approved may take a very long time indeed.

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