GEORGE NEWS - Residents who have been complaining lately to the George Herald about unsatisfactory building work and "disruptive" construction activities in their neighbourhood accuse the George Municipality's Planning Department and National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) as slow in their response to grievances, and not always effective.
Four residents in an upmarket retirement estate in George seeking compensation for tiles coming loose (in their relatively young homes) could not get their complaints addressed satisfactorily and are taking the developer to the Small Claims Court.
Complaints about cracked walls, damp coming through the walls, paint and plaster peeling (as a result of too much sand and too little cement, according to one complainant) are also doing the rounds in the estate.
"One of the reasons we chose a tile floor is that it is supposed to last decades," says one of the unhappy retirees. "We have come here to retire in peace and quiet in a new home, not to struggle with fixing up homes."
In general, complaints reported to the newspaper also include illegal building work, people not sticking to approved building plans, building works that cause disruption to neighbouring properties, and even erroneous information submitted on building applications. Those who approach the newspaper are at their wits' end because of unresponsive officials or what they perceive as unfair resolutions to their complaints.
This leads to some serious disputes erupting in some cases. In Kleinkrantz a resident received a voice note threat from a building contractor who is building a home on a plot next to his (the resident's) house. The resident also faces a possible defamation claim if he does not apologise for statements made to the municipality and NHBRC regarding alleged substandard materials and workmanship. Before the floor was poured, the foundation bricks were cracking, according to the complainant, who also suspects that backfilling in the foundation had not been compacted. "If they go ahead, the house will display structural cracks within a few months. It is a shame that such poor building work and substandard materials are accepted by the municipality."
In Herold's Bay the excavations done by a homeowner who is adding on to his house have caused rainwater and sand to run down onto lower lying properties and his additions have stripped one neighbour of privacy around her swimming pool. Allegations of unapproved deviation from the building plans are being made, but the complainants say the municipality is not responding to their concerns.
The NHBRC says they inspect a project during the four main stages, namely sub-structure (site clearing and foundations), super-structure (floor to ceiling height), practical completion (roof and finishes) and storm water management.
According to Acting Communications Manager Molebogeng Taunyane, the NHBRC provides structural quality assurance and backs this with a five-year major structural defect warranty.
Rights of the homeowner
Taunyane says a homeowner has the right to:
• within 3 months from occupation, instruct a builder to rectify non-compliance or deviation from the terms, plans and specifications of their mutual building agreement;
• within 12 months from occupation, instruct a builder to repair roof leaks attributable to workmanship, design or materials.
• within 5 years from occupation, instruct a builder to rectify major structural defects identified in the home that have been caused by non-compliance with technical building standards.
In the event that a builder is unable or unwilling to rectify reported defects, the NHBRC can act as a mediator and institute a conciliation process to ensure that the defects are attended to by the builder.
George Municipality said the municipality inspects a building site at three stages - at foundation phase to check if trenches coincide with building plans, an open sewer inspection including a pressure test, and a final inspection after completion of the entire project.
Contractors on site are NHBRC registered and each must issue certificates of completion, which implies they take responsibility for the work done. All such certificates, additional engineering reports and other documents will form part of the final NHBRC certification, which is then submitted to the George Municipality Building Control office. Upon receipt of the certificates, a municipal building inspector will visit and inspect the site. If all is found to be compliant, the municipality will issue an occupation certificate.
'Bottle-neck due to Covid-19'
According to Planning and Development Acting Director Delia Power, rotation schedules of staff and off-site working due to Covid-19 regulations are contributing factors in delays. "Building inspectors are frontline workers and may be affected by isolation periods linked to possible exposure. In addition, the lockdown period had initially slowed down submissions, which have then picked up drastically, causing a bottle-neck effect."
Both the Town Planning and Building Control offices have transitioned to online application submission portals and all processing of applications are handled electronically. "This process in itself has presented some challenges and the primary priority at this stage is to expedite processes that would support local economic recovery and restore employment opportunities."
More staff appointments
Power said the directorate will certainly benefit from more appointments in most sections. "We hope that the finances will become available in due course for all relevant roles to be effectively supplemented. The process of filling vacant budgeted posts is already in progress and we hope to have a few new additions to the department by the start of the new year.
"In the meantime, the department remains committed to address concerns, apologises for the inconvenience and thank the public in advance for their patience and understanding in challenging times."
'Do not complain directly to inspectors'
The directorate appeals to complainants to direct their complaints the correct addresses, telephone numbers or the municipal app and refrain from referring complaints to individual inspectors via e-mail as our inspectors are mostly in the field and rely on administrative support to address complaints in a timeous manner. An electronic complaints portal will be introduced in due course - until then complaints and enquiries can be directed to:
- General enquiries: 044 801 9370
- Illegal activity: Nolan Noemdoe 083 757 3717
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and CC to email@example.com
'We bring you the latest George, Garden Route news'