South Africa

Joburg Storm: Aftermath takes its toll on property owners as report reveals questionable building practices

By Bheki C. Simelane 7 March 2018

A provisional report on storm damage caused to properties in the southern and western parts of Johannesburg on 30 December 2017 has revealed that one of the two contractors involved in the construction of properties was not registered with the National Home Builders Registration Council. In the provisional report the City’s Group Risk and Advisory Services has hinted at questionable building standards. By BHEKI SIMELANE.

On Tuesday in Johannesburg, Mayor Herman Mashaba released the contents of a provisional report on storm damage caused to properties in the southern and western parts of the city. The report revealed that one of the contractors was not registered with the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC). The release of the report follows Mashaba’s January launch of an investigation into the standard of building on some of the properties worst affected by the storm.

Section 10 of the Housing Consumers Protection Measures Act of 1998 provides that any person in the business of home building is required by law to register with the NHBRC. The contractor’s failure to adhere to the provisions of the Act amounts to a criminal offence punishable with a year’s prison term on each charge or a fine of up to R25,000.

The contractor was in perpetual breach of the same Act through his failure to enable inspection while the property was under construction, in order to ensure proper quality control.

Apart from its findings of non-adherence to legislation, the provisional report also revealed administrative problems, including:

  • Poor record keeping at the City’s Building Development Management;
  • Group Risk and Advisory Services (GRAS) noted that there was no proper filing system at Building Development Management, resulting in challenges to produce records timeously;
  • Incomplete applications for approval of building plans;
  • During the review of the Building Development Management’s approval of the plans, GRAS came across instances where incomplete forms were accepted and captured into the City’s system;
  • No proof of home pre-inspection during the construction of some of the properties within the files;
  • Failure to conduct pre-inspection during construction is in breach of the Housing Consumers Protection measures Act of 1998.

Further, files relating to the storm damage show that there were no records of inspections prior to commencement of construction and during the construction process. The following inspections never happened:

  • Trench and/or foundation inspection prior to pouring concrete;
  • Wall and/or structure inspections at floor level, lintel height, and roof level;
  • Drain inspection, before connection to the municipal water and or sewage system, and prior to infilling;
  • Concrete slab inspection if applicable, before concrete is poured;
  • Roof inspection;
  • Incomplete files. In some instances some of the files had the date on which the application for the approval of the plan was submitted;
  • No consistency in the dates of plan approvals in relation to the occupancy certificates (GRAS found that the date for a planned approval of an occupancy certificate differed from the approval date by the Chief Plan Examiner in their respective files);
  • Stand number with two plan approval dates (GRAS came across instances where the approval plans had two different dates);
  • No certificates of occupancy in Lufhereng files (GRAS found that all the identified houses had no certificate of occupancy in their files);
  • Dates on certificates of occupancy differ from stamps issuing such certificates (GRAS noted that the dates on which inspectors have issued the certificates of occupancy differ with official stamps on the documents, making it difficult to establish the correct date on which the certificates of occupancy were issued).

Mashaba noted that though the findings presented were only provisional and in no way complete, they painted a worrying picture of the state of affairs within City departments charged with effective record keeping and quality control.

GRAS has instructed the City’s Building Development Management and the Housing Department to put in place measures to immediately rectify deficiencies which were identified during the investigation.

Many residents in the affected areas were left with no shelter in the aftermath of the storm. Some told Daily Maverick at the time that their insurance companies had sought them alternative accommodation while they rebuilt their homes. Some affected Protea Glen extension 28, 29, and 31 residents said they had already started rebuilding after a futile wait for aid for a month. At the time the City of Johannesburg estimated that the number of households affected by the storm was 3,152.

The City’s provisional report did not finger the contractor, who is not registered with the NHBRC.

During a visit to the area in January, affected Protea Glen Extension 31 resident Tintswalo Maswanganyi said it was a highly unfortunate situation to be left in.

Maswanganyi, like many other residents, will be pleased to know that their suspicion that no proper inspection was conducted on some of the houses was well founded.

The report will be welcomed by residents, many of whom incurred significant costs because of the damage to their houses. Some residents had lost significant business after the storm.

Mashaba said the final report will be handed over to his office by 14 March 2018. DM

Photo: One of the damaged houses in the Protea Glen Extension 31. Photo: BHEKI SIMELANE

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