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Compliance certificates you’ll need when buying or selling a house

When buying or selling a house, it is important to be aware of the compliance certificates that may be required prior to the registration of the transaction in the deeds office. Attending to the required certificates sooner rather than later can contribute to the seamless registration of the transaction.

Some of these compliance certificates are obligatory in terms of legislation, while others are required in terms of municipal by-laws.  Certain compliance certificates may also be required by the banks before providing finance, and some compliance certificates have become standard practice.

Herewith a summary of the important compliance certificates:

  1. Electrical Certificate of Compliance

It is a legal requirement for all homeowners to be in possession of an Electrical Certificate of Compliance (ECC). This is governed by the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993.

The certificate is issued by a registered electrician and verifies that the electrical work and installation on the property complies with the prescribed safety standards. The inspection done to issue an ECC will cover the distribution boards, all wiring as well as earthing and bonding of all metal components, which include antennae and satellite dishes. It will also cover the socket outlets, light switches and all isolators for fixed appliances. However, an electrical certificate will not cover any fixed appliances such as the geyser, stove, motors, fans or underfloor heating.

An ECC is valid for two years from the date of issue, provided that there have been no modifications or alterations to the installation since the date of issue, in which instance the Seller is required to obtain an additional ECC for such alterations.

The Seller is usually responsible for obtaining the ECC and payment of any costs for repairs required for the ECC to be issued.

The parties may agree that the responsibility for attending to the ECC and payment of costs associated with the ECC be transferred from the Seller to the Purchaser.

  1. Electric Fence Certificate of Compliance

The Electrical Machinery Regulations to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 requires the user of an electrical fence system to be in possession of an Electrical Fence Certificate of Compliance (EFCC).

This is a separate certificate from the Electrical Certificate of Compliance mentioned above since it certifies that the electric fence installation complies with the required safety standards. Only qualified contractors registered with the SA Electrical Fence Installers Association are legally permitted to erect, repair and certify electric fences.

There is no set period for validity of the EFCC and an existing certificate may be transferred by the Seller to the Purchaser. However a new inspection and certification is required should the fence have undergone any addition or alteration.

The requirement also applies to sales of sectional title units. An individual certificate will not be required but the body corporate should be in possession of a valid EFCC for the electric fence on the common property.

The matter of who will be responsible for the EFCC and the costs relating thereto is negotiable between the Seller and the Purchaser.

  1. Gas Certificate of Compliance

In terms of the Pressure Equipment Regulations to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993, any person who disposes of a property on which a gas appliance has been installed, must obtain a Gas Certificate of Compliance (GCOC).

Gas and gas systems are very broadly defined and include gas fires or braais, gas stoves and ovens as well as hot water systems. This GCOC certifies that the gas installation on the property complies with the required safety standards and must be issued by an authorised person who is registered with the Liquified Petroleum Gas Safety Association of Southern Africa.

For the gas components to pass the inspection for the GCOC, they must be correctly positioned in relation to electrical points, and outside cylinders must be the required distance from doors, drains, windows and electrical appliances. A new GCOC must be obtained with every change of ownership, prior to the registration of the transaction.

Parties cannot contract out of this or agree to waive the requirement for a GCOC, however the parties may agree that it is the Purchaser’s responsibility to obtain the GCOC.

  1. Water Installation Certificate

The requirement for a Water Installation Certificate (WIC) before a transfer will take place is area-specific and governed by the City of Cape Town water by-law. It is only applicable to transfers within the municipal jurisdiction of the City of Cape Town.

The WIC certifies that the water installation on the property is in line with municipal and building guidelines. The intent of this law is to limit water wastage as much as possible and therefore a new certificate must be obtained with every change of ownership.

Parties cannot contract out of this or agree to waive the requirement for a WIC. The Seller is required to submit the certificate to the City of Cape Town prior to transfer.

  1. Entomologist Certificate

Although it is not governed by any law, it has become standard practice in areas known to be infested (particularly in Kwazulu-Natal), that a Seller provides the Purchaser with an Entomologist Certificate (EC).

This EC certifies that the accessible wood of permanent structures in the property are free from wood-destroying insects. An EC is also known as a pest or beetle certificate and must be issued by an entomologist registered with the South African Pest Control Association.

The Seller is usually responsible for obtaining the EC prior to transfer and paying costs associated with the EC including work to be done to eradicate any infestations. The EC is only issued once the property has been inspected for any visible signs of wood destroying insects and deemed to be free of any such insects.

This requirement may be waived by the parties or the responsibility may be placed on the Purchaser by agreement between the parties. However if a financial institution requires an EC when the parties have agreed that no EC is necessary, then the EC will be for the Purchaser’s expense.

For assistance and advice on any of the abovementioned compliance certificates, please consult one of the attorneys in our Property Law Department.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

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