How to obtain copies of existing approved building plans.

A re you looking to obtain copies of the approved plans of your existing house or are you wanting to buy a house and want to know what has and has not been approved by the local authority on the existing plans? This process might not be as easy as you may think and if you are unsure of where to begin, here are a few ways to obtain existing house or building plans no matter what country you live in:

Example of house plans

1 – Local Authorities / Planning Department / District Office / Municipal Offices.

The first and most common route to take is a visit to your Local Authority, otherwise known as Planning Department, District Office or Municipal Offices, and to request a copy of your approved plans. The search fee is around R150 in South Africa and will vary depending where you live. The search process takes about a week or two after which you should receive notification that your plans have been found and you can then return to the Local Authority, look through the plans they have found and request copies

In order to apply for copies of approved plans you will need to provide the following:

  • A copy of your ID (if you are not the registered owner you will need a copy of the owner’s ID)
  • A recent rates bill (no older than 3 months)
  • The Erf number and address of the property ( You will find the erf number of the property on the title deed)
  • An application form to obtain copies of approved drawings, this can usually be downloaded from the district office’s website or you can fill it in when you make the application
  • If you are not the owner of the property you will need a letter of consent from the registered owner. This form can also usually be download from the districts office’s website

While this is usually the most successful means of obtaining copies of approved plans, it can sometimes be unsuccessful due to the fact that the Local Authority may not always have records of all approved plans submitted. In this case, the following routes may prove more fruitful…

Example of slimier houses

2 – If you know who designed and built the building or who worked on the latest alterations and additions, contact the architect or designer and request a copy of the plans. By law, architects have to keep approved plans of all their projects for seven years after completion. If you are unsure as to who built or designed the building and it happens to look similar in style to the neighbouring buildings, it may be worth approaching your neighbours for information as, in this case, the buildings were most likely designed or built by the same architect and they may just be able to help you out.

If you live in a complex or block of flats, the body corporate may have a copy of the latest approved plans.

3 – Unfortunately if the Local Authority could not help you and you have no way of knowing who might’ve designed or built the building it is unlikely that you will find copies elsewhere. The only option you have is to employ an architect or draughts person to measure up the building and to draw it up for you. This can be quite expensive as the fee structure for architects is generally based on a percentage of the total budget for a project. The total budget is worked out by calculating the total cost of theoretically rebuilding your project. This is standard practice.

The most affordable option would be to approach a small firm or approach an architect or draughts person who would be willing to charge an hourly rate. At Peak Design, we offer just that. Please feel free to contact us should you need any further information on how to find your approved plans or if you would like us to help you bring plans of your building to life.

Darren Barnard:

(+27) 0722 732 323  darren @ peakdesign.co.za

 Jessica Thompson: 

(+27) 825 201 544 jessica @ peakdesign.co.za

give us a call

Author Darren Barnard

More posts by Darren Barnard

Leave a Reply