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Frequently asked questions about plumbing certificates.

Written by  Smith Tabata Buchanan Boyes
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Frequently asked questions about plumbing certificates Frequently asked questions about plumbing certificates

In February of 2011 the City of Cape Town municipality passed a new water by-law which requires that, with effect from 18 February 2011 onwards, all sellers of properties within its jurisdiction must furnish a Plumbing Certificate to the municipality before transfer.

In order to facilitate future compliance with this requirement on the side of the Purchaser, sale agreements usually include a provision that the Seller furnishes a copy of the Plumbing Certificate to the Purchaser, before transfer.

The certificate serves to confirm that –

  • the water installation conforms to the national building regulations;
  • the property’s water meter is registering;
  • there are no defects that can cause water to run to waste; and
  • no rainwater leaks into the sewerage system.

The intention of the by-law is to manage our scarce water resources responsibly. The City loses approximately 79 000 million litres of potable water in the distribution system annually and this by-law strives to control water wastage from private homes.

The by-law also provides the City with an opportunity to gradually eliminate the increasing number of storm water connections into sewers, which puts capacity pressure on our sewerage network and treatment capacity. These are typically illegal connections that people make after the approval of the plans and inspection of the completed buildings. There is also a health and safety aspect to prohibiting cross connections between storm water systems and sewers. One of the greatest contributions to health in the last 100 years has been the introduction and management of closed sewer systems to limit and control the spread of disease.

What is the procedure?

  1. The Seller must acquire the Certificate of Compliance (COC) forms from the City of Cape Town.
  2. The Seller should select an accredited plumber, i.e. one who has the requisite qualifications in terms of the South African Qualification Authority. If in doubt, contact the City for confirmation. Only accredited plumbers may work on premises or issue a COC.
  3. The Seller will be liable to pay the COC fee to the plumber.
  4. The Seller may be assisted by an estate agent for all of the above.
  5. The conveyancer will request the original COC.
  6. The conveyancer can now proceed with registration as the Deeds Office does not require a copy of the COC.

What is a plumber expected to check?

  • The Hot Water Cylinder installation complies with SANS 10252 and SANS10254.
  • The water meter registers when a tap is open and stops completely when no water is drawn. (The alternative would indicate a defect somewhere on the property.)
  • None of the terminal water fittings leak and they are correctly fixed in position.
  • No storm water is discharged into the sewerage system.
  • There is no cross connection between the potable supply and any grey water or groundwater system which may be installed.
  • The water pipes in the plumbing installation are properly saddled.

Who bears the cost of repair?

The by-law requires that remedial work and repair be executed prior to registration and in order to obtain the COC. The COC must be issued before transfer and thus the owner (the Seller) must pay for the expenses of repair.  

What about older houses with older systems?

Any plumbing installation constructed at any particular time should only conform to what the relevant water services by-law for that particular period required. For example, the City cannot now call for older installations to conform to “10 litre shower heads” or “6 litre basin taps”. Also, galvanized mild steel piping, which was ‘outlawed’ about a decade ago, would have been allowed during the construction of older houses. An exception is automatic flushing cisterns fitted to urinals, for which the period of grace has now expired.

However, be advised that the City of Cape Town will not allow wastage of water, or risk of injury or threat to health. The current by-law gives the Director of Water and Sanitation the authority to serve notice on the owners of homes with older installations constructed under previously promulgated by-laws where such installations have developed defects causing water to run to waste due to defective materials or poor plumbing practices and fittings.

Could the need for a Plumbing Certificate cause a delay in registering the Transfer of a property?

There is no need for the Seller to wait until he has a confirmed buyer before arranging for the inspection or repairs. The Seller will be reminded of this requirement by the estate agent and the inspection can be arranged within a matter of days. Should there be no defects, the certificate would be issued immediately.
The Municipality will not delay the issue of rates and taxes clearances if the water COC has not yet been complied with.

The transfer can be delayed however if the owner does not complete all necessary repairs.

How will the by-law apply to sectional title units?

Most sectional title units have one main meter on common property with sub-meters for each unit. Only the main meter is of importance to the municipal authority. The vast majority of piping is also on common property. In this case, the certification would include the operation of the sub-meter, if applicable, any leaks in the system, and the geyser installation.

Why is it necessary to have the same property re-certified every time the property is sold?

The by-law provides that a certificate is required for every sale being registered as there is no guarantee that a purchaser has not made changes to the water installation before he/she resells the property.

Smith Tabata Buchanan Boyes

Smith Tabata Buchanan Boyes

Smith Tabata Buchanan Boyes