Landowners are usually aware of limitations imposed on their ownership by municipal by-laws and building codes. Before commencing any building alteration or demolition, landowners should also establish whether the structure being altered or demolished is older than 60 years.
In terms of the National Heritage Resources Act, “no person may alter or demolish any structure or part of a structure which is older than 60 years without a permit issued by the relevant provincial heritage resources authority.”
Landowners, therefore, need to apply for a permit from Amafa (the heritage authority for KwaZulu-Natal) before commencing any of the following activities in relation to a structure or part of a structure:
- Any action affecting the appearance or physical property of the structure; and,
The Act defines a “structure” as any building or work fixed to the land, and includes fixtures and fittings as well as associated equipment.
Failure to obtain the relevant permit can result in a fine, imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years, or both a fine and imprisonment.
It is important to note that there is no cut-off date for the 60 year period used to calculate whether a permit is required. Thus, any activity in relation to a structure which is 59 years old in 2017 would not require a permit. However, in 2020, such a structure would be more than 60 years old and a permit would be required for the same activity.
The Supreme Court of Appeal dealt with the National Heritage Resources Act in a case reported earlier this year.
In this case, the owner wanted to demolish a building present on his land. As the building was more than 60 years old, he obtained the necessary permit. However, the permit contained certain conditions which the owner was unhappy about.
After hearing the argument, the court ordered that a permit can stipulate conditions which the landowner must follow.
Current and future property owners, as well as property investors and developers, should note that:
- A permit is needed to alter or demolish a structure older than 60 years; and,
- Various conditions may be imposed, which can restrict the initial plan that the owner had in mind for the property.
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