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What are Certificates of Compliance, and why do I need them when I sell my property?

Posted by Laila Conlon on 20 Jul, 2017
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We recently sold and transferred a property for a client and were required to instruct various service providers to attend to certificates of compliance, or COC’s as they are commonly known.

Our client was horrified to learn that they would be set back by R16 500.00 due to a woodborer infestation, as well as R4 500.00 in order to get an electrical certificate.  This led to the question of why these certificates were needed, and what they were actually for.

Some certificates are required in terms of law (national regulations), while others have found their way into the real estate game through municipal by-laws or simple trade usage.  Some are even a necessity in order to obtain a bond.

The certificates required by law (the Occupational Health and Safety Act), which means you cannot transfer a property without them, are the following:

  1. Electrical Certificate;
  2. Electric Fence Certificate; and
  3. Gas Certificate.

Electrical Certificates are valid for 2 years from date of issue.  This certificate certifies that the electrical installation in the house is up to the standards as set out by the Act, making it a safe environment for any person.  This covers things like ensuring that the distribution board is wired as well as labelled correctly, plug sockets and light switches are installed correctly, and that earthing and isolators have been attended to.

An Electric Fence Certificate is also mandatory for selling your home.  For fences erected before 2012, a certificate is not necessary, however it is good practice in any event to obtain one.  That being said, for fences erected after April 2012, the certificate is compulsory and the same provisions apply as for an electrical certificate (valid for 2 years, unless the regulations or safety standards are amended in the interim).

For Gas Certificates, it is suggested that they are valid for up to 5 years, however with the often changing safety regulations and standards, approved certificate officers will often require remedial work from the previous installation, in order to bring the installation up to standard with the most recent safety guidelines.  In other words, the safety guidelines are updated so often, that what was a sufficient installation last year, might not cut it this year.

Producing a fraudulent electrical, electric fence and gas certificates is a criminal offence under the Act, and charges of fraud can be laid against any seller who knowingly obtains a fraudulent certificates (cutting corners to save costs), as well as the contractor who issues it.

Certificates which are not required by regulations are the following:

  1. Water Certificate; and
  2. Woodborer Certificate.

If you live in Cape Town, you will be required to provide a water certificate in terms of the local by-laws of the Cape Town Municipality (this is because the Cape is prone to droughts).  This does not cover all the plumbing of the property, but includes checks to ensure that there are no leaks on the property, that the water meter has been installed correctly, and to ensure that water is not wasted.  If you contravene the Cape Town Water By-Law, you can be subject to a fine, criminal sanctions and even have your water disconnected.

Woodborer (or Beetle) Certificates (as well as Dry Rot Certificates), have found their way into the real estate game through trade usage.  This means that they are not a requirement under legislation or a by-law, but are required in terms of general sale agreements to avoid legal disputes later on (due to latent or patent defects).  These certificates prove that your property has been inspected by a trained professional, and certifies that there are no wood destroying insects, or dry rot in the wood (trusses and wooden support beams mainly, other than wooden floors), which could lead to serious danger due to collapse of a roof or floor if left untreated.  In other words, an infestation or rot in structural timber.  Although not a requipment by law, banks often require them in order to approve or proceed with the bond registration on behalf of the buyer, as it could lead to large insurance claims if left unchecked.

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