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CT buyers, do you know your suburb’s building and renovation restrictions?

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Double digit property price inflation in Cape Town means that prices in the city are much higher than elsewhere in the country.  Although many dream of moving to Cape Town this has meant that affordable options are often the prime consideration.

The stand-out performance of the area’s property market has meant that many are buying to renovate or add on, turning the ‘bargain’ property into their dream home.

Lew Geffen, chairman of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, cautions however, that making uninformed decisions about purchasing in the city can be a minefield, especially for those looking to knock down and build or renovate older buildings in some of the city’s best locations.

If you’re buying a property to renovate or rebuild in the Mother City you better be sure to do your homework or the offer to purchase can be a costly mistake. Stringent municipal planning by-laws, made even more complex by overlay zonings like declared heritage protection areas, scenic drives or certain historic special controls, these activities just about impossible in certain suburbs or sub-suburbs.

A building plan that affects heritage aspects would have to be submitted to Heritage Western Cape first, and only after its decision has been handed to the City can the rest of the planning processes proceed.

The suburbs where homework is required


Clifton bungalow on the beach

“Along Victoria Road in Clifton, no building on the mountain side may extend more than 13m above street level, says Geffen. “Camps Bay, Bakoven and Llandudno are also subject to height restrictions of two or three storeys, depending on location. The bungalow areas of Bakoven, Clifton and Glen Beach, meanwhile, have a raft of additional aesthetic regulations governing fencing, lighting, solar water heaters and satellite dishes.”

He points out that the Municipal Planning By-law also has subdivision regulations which apply to areas such as Constantia, Tokai, Hout Bay and Noordhoek based on property size, while in Muizenberg a second dwelling is more likely to get planning permission.

According to Geffen, unless you intend to move into a house as is, it would be smart to appoint and thoroughly brief a qualified town planner who has previously engaged with the City of Cape Town before making an offer to purchase.

The City of Cape Town’s Development Management Scheme (DMS) forms part of its 2015 Municipal Planning By-law and is a legal tool used to determine the use of rights of a property by giving it a particular zoning category. It also lays down development parameters and restrictions for each type or property.

Top tip: A property’s current zoning can be verified online through the city’s online zoning viewer by inputting an erf number or street address.

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Cape Town is the second largest city in South Africa and is the capital of the Western Cape Province.

Cape Town’s CBD

Specialist conveyancing attorney Elana Hopkins, of Dykes Van Heerden agrees with Geefen. “Buyers should request a building plan prior to making an offer to purchase a property and, if possible, consult an architect or town planner about what they intend to do,” adds Hopkins. “They’ll be able to advise whether the desired alterations are permissible and will also liaise with the relevant City departments if necessary.”

Expert tip: Hopkins says that when jostling with other buyers for a sought-after property, and time is of the essence, it’s a good idea to add a due diligence clause to the purchase offer. This clause should refer to the viability of the property for the purpose for which it is being bough. This should not exceed the bond approval period.

Hopkins cautions that the absence of a suspensive or resolutive condition would put the purchaser in breach of contract and liable for damages as well as agent’s commission should he or she want to with withdraw from the sale if the property is not be deemed suitable after the agreement has already been entered into.

The City of Cape Town strongly advises that prospective buyers take the time to visit a local planning office if they are in any doubt about building or development applications. “Residents should always verify the zoning of a particular property, what uses are permitted and what rights they would need to apply for to enhance its rights,” explains Priya Reddy, Spokesperson for the City of Cape Town.

Reddy also advises buyers to take note of potential title-deed restrictions such as municipal servitudes, which can be done by requesting a Conveyancer’s Certificate from your conveyancer. Hopkins cautions that there are often conditions in the small print attached to a title deed that need to be researched by a conveyancer and looking at the title deed alone is therefore not sufficient in most instances.

Geffen believes that your best line of defence is to ensure that you have all the information regarding the property you wish to purchase before making an offer. “The planning regime has changed substantially over the past few years. Therefore, always first visit your local district planning office and consult with an experienced town planner or architect to reduce the chances of receiving incorrect facts,” agrees Reddy.

The experts agree that it is in your best interest to spend a bit of money ahead of time, consulting a town planner or architect, so that you understand exactly what you can and cannot do before signing on the dotted line, and risking losing a bundle of cash down the line.

Top photo: This duplex penthouse on the outskirts of the CBD is on the market for R11,395mil and boasts three spacious suites and exclusive lift access.


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