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HANDY MAC: Don’t use illegal contractors

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Experienced and compliant builders lose out when homeowners use illegal contractors

While visiting my doctor (who is a reader of the column) last week, (a visit caused by too much DIY occasioned by Mrs Mac), I bumped into Nic Louw, one of Cape Town’s leading architects and an old friend.

We got into a discussion about “legal” building and he has sent me the following: Any unauthorised building work, no matter how small, is illegal, in terms of the Act. The fact that there is so much unauthorised building work, in the form of shacks, garage conversions and so on, in low income areas, is no excuse. 

A client of ours discovered this to his detriment when he told a magistrate he was being unfairly singled out. In his case, it was a boundary wall that exceeded the 1.8m height restriction by 200mm. Building inspectors tend to be more vigilant in more affluent areas, where summonses can be delivered and fines collected.

As discussed, apart from “doing the right thing” by complying, it is in a homeowner’s interest to have up-to-date approved plans. More and more purchasers of property are insisting on copies of approved plans and an undertaking that there is no illegal building work during the “due diligence” process.

Should there be unauthorised work, the purchaser has the right to cancel the sales agreement. On completion of building works, the building inspector must be called to inspect and confirm the work was carried out in accordance with the approved plans.

Should there be any deviations, even of a minor nature, the owner will be requested to submit a deviation plan before the Certificate of Occupation is issued (CoO). It is illegal to occupy a building without the issuing of a CoO, and there are also potential problems with the building’s insurers.

I concluded my week with attendance at an executive committee meeting of The Master Builders Association. The main thrust of the meeting was the action that needs to be taken to reduce the amount of work being carried out by non-registered and non-compliant contractors.

Apart from the fact that it is another form of illegal building, it reduces the amount of work available for all the honest, experienced and compliant South African building workers.

The Building Industrial Bargaining Council is being charged to turn up the heat on unregistered contractors, and it would be good to see the department of labour also getting involved and taking action.

*Handy Mac, aka Don MacAlister, is our expert on household DIY issues. If you have a question for him, please send it to or SMS only to 082 446 3859. Find Don on FB: Like us on Facebook



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