Compliance Certificates: What you need to know when selling or buying.

When a home is bought and sold in South Africa there is a legal requirement that certain aspects of the property be inspected and cleared of any damage and degeneration by a certified professional. These certificates must be issued before a transfer can take place because without them the buyer cannot be certain that the property they are purchasing is actually safe to live in.As they are a legal requirement the absence of these certificates will also delay the transfer and prevent the seller from getting their money on time. It is therefore in everyone’s best interest to ensure that these ‘certificates of compliance’ are available and valid.

A few years ago only Electrical and Beetle Certificates were required but a new law now also stipulates that a Plumbing certificate be issued as well as, where applicable, a Gas Certificate and Electric Fencing Certificate.

Now let’s look at the specifics of each certificate:

Plumbing/Water Certificate:
Your property is vulnerable to major damage due to leaks, pipe bursts and faulty geysers. As the price of water increases any leaks can also cost a fortune in municipal bills. This makes the Plumbing Certificate probably the most important of all.

Like all the certificates, the accreditation of the issuer is critical and the inspection for this certificate must be completed by a certified plumber. The Plumbing Certificate issued by a reputable plumber guarantees that all plumbing on the property complies with the correct standards.

Things to look out for are:
– The water installation conforms to the National Building Regulations and that there are no defects.
– The water meter is registered and there is no discharge of storm water into the sewerage system (if
it is you will be pouring money down the drain).

Beetle Certificate:
There are a variety of wood boring beetles in South Africa and several of these species can infest the timber of your home. A serious infestation can turn solid wooden trusses to powder and eventually collapse the entire roof. These beetles can also infest wooden floors, doors and skirting boards.

Most wood used in construction is treated against these insects but inspections are still necessary as this defence weakens over time. An exterminator will assess the timber and deal with any infestations. They will then issue a certificate that guarantees the absence of beetles from any timber on the property.

One of the major drawbacks of these certificates is that many only cover certain species of beetles. Ensure that you use a reputable, credentialed exterminator that will cover all species of beetles.

Please be aware that this guarantee is only valid for 3 months and a beetle inspection must be completed for each sale. While living in/owning the property it is unlikely you will need to do an inspection this frequently but it is recommend that you perform one every few years just to be safe.

In the case of a purchase in an apartment complex a Beetle Certificate is unnecessary in units below the top floor as they do not have roof timber.

Electrical Certificate
When a house is constructed an Electrical Certificate has to be submitted before the local authority will connect the property to the electricity supply. When selling an established property a clearance certificate must be issued before the transfer of the property from the seller’s name to that of the buyer can take place.

A credentialed and qualified electrician must complete the inspection and issue the certificate. This must be arranged by the seller and the certificate made available to the purchaser.

Electric Fence Compliance Certificate
In terms of the Electrical Machinery Regulations of 2011, issued under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993, an additional compliance certificate is now required where there is a change of ownership of immovable property.

This new law also includes electrical fence systems. This means that any electrified barrier for protection against trespassers or animals must be inspected and be compliant with the law.

Unfortunately this inspection cannot be completed by an electrician and can only be issued by a registered electric fence system installer.

In the case of a secure complex the seller must obtain the compliance certificate from the managing agency or the body corporate.

Gas Certificate
With increases to electricity costs the use of gas to cook and heat homes and water has become more popular. As gas is a dangerous element a Gas Certificate was introduced for safety reasons. It is important to check for gas leaks in order to avoid fires, explosions or suffocation.

This certificate covers all gas fixtures on a property and ensures that they are safe and in proper working order. By “fixtures” we mean anything that is built into/attached to the property (built in fireplaces, braais, geysers etc.) and not portable devices like movable gas braais (or skottels) and heaters.

Like the electric fence certificate a gas certificate can only be issued by an accredited gas appliance installation company.

As the seller you should take all these certificates into consideration and begin the inspection process early to avoid delays and ensure that you property is compliant. If the property is non-compliant it can result in the sale collapsing! As the buyer you have the right to bring in your own experts but this ‘second opinion’ will be done at your own expense.

While they add another layer of complexity to the sales process these legal requirements are designed to indemnify the seller, safeguard the purchaser’s investment and ensure the safety of the occupants. Your estate agent or transferring attorney will likely have the contact details of reputable experts in each field and I’m sure they will happily provide them to you.

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