What Are You Required to Do with the NHBRC as an Owner Builder?


All new homes, by law, have to be registered with the NHBRC, some RDP houses are exempt from this. As an owner builder you may apply for an exemption from the Housing Consumer Protection Measures Act with the NHBRC. There are certain questions that they ask and have to be satisfactorily answered before the exemption is granted.

There is a link at the bottom of this post so you can download the questionnaire.

The NHBRC’s Nomawethu Maqetuka has published a letter outlining some of the requirements:

Thanks you very much for enquiring about the owner builder process.

Owner Builder

It is a legislative requirement that anyone who wishes to be exempt from the provisions of the Housing Consumer Protection Measures Act on the basis of being an owner builder must make submission to the Council prior to the commencement of construction.

Further is a requirement that the applicant proves, inter alia, that he displays the appropriate financial, technical, construction and management capacity to construct the residential unit.

A commissioned motivation by the Applicant:

The following information must be included in the motivation:

  • Will the applicant be employing a contractor (“a person appointed by the owner builder to assist in the construction of a home or installation of subsidiary services to a home”) / skilled artisans to assist him? If so, the names of the contractors must be confirmed together with the terms of conditions. Include a copy of the contract/agreement;
  • Is the Applicant the owner of the property? If so, provide the title deed.
  • If the Applicant is not the owner of the property, but will only be assisting the owner in the building of the latter’s home (as per the definition of owner builder), provide the Title Deed and Power of Attorney (Annexure D) authorising the Applicant to bring the application for exemption and to build the house on his behalf.
  • Details of any experience in or knowledge of the built industry (include any certified copies of the qualifications, past experience, knowledge of Home Builders Manuals etc.);
  • The applicant must agree to write the Technical
  • Who will be occupying the home;
  • Has the applicant applied for owner builder exemption on any other property previously, or does he intend to do so in future? Provide details of property and circumstances.

Kind Regards

Nomawethu Maqetuka


Read more on Owner Building & Project Management




  80 Responses to “Owner Builder Requirements – NHBRC”

Comments (80)
  1. Good day,

    My partner and I want to buy a plot of agricultural land and build using alternative methods (i.e. earthbag, super adobe building) I have searched the site and cannot find anything directly dealing with how to submit plans, if it is considered a non-standardized product or is exempt in any way from any kind of building laws.

    We would be building ourselves as owner builders as I have experience draughting and submitting architectural plans and he is in construction. We would be living there ourselves and later would want to expand to become a small lodge/backpackers and we want to have all the correct information upfront before wasting money only to find out we will be shut down etc without special certificates of compliance or specific building methods being implemented. I looked at the green building council website and can’t find exactly what I need.

    Many thanks.

    • Part A of the NBR states that any alternative building methods require an aggregate certificate that details the building process/method – and it will still need to comply with certain parts of the NBR. Plans would then be submitted in the usual way and you would have to apply to the NHBRC for an exemption (i.e. to build as owner builders). This involves a fairly basic multiple choice exam. Regarding using it as a lodge later, this will fall under the local authority bylaws – and they would need to give permission. So perhaps you can check with them first.

    • Good day,

      I wish to enquire. I have recently had my house build in 2015 with a NHBRC builder. We now have major plumbing problems the builder has absconded and we have realized that our occupation certificate might be fraudulent as it was established that our neighbours were fraudulent. We have written numours of letters to the NHBRC and builder and my bills keep piling huge water bills as our contract states we not allowed to touch any works of the contractor under guarantee. The builder cant provide us with a plumbing certificate either so I’m not sure how the builder obtained the occupation certificate without all the other relevant certificates? Kindly advise as I’m really disappointed that we had to pay for NHBRC and not getting the assistance we promised now that we experiencing problems. I have send various emails to the NHBRC head office and to the Regional complaints department and left messages to the Managers and no assistance. Kindly advise.

      • If the builder was registered with the NHBRC when he built your house, and the house was enrolled, than you should be covered by the standard NHBRC warranty. Perhaps you need to go into the NHBRC offices – or contact their media liaison person and say you are planning to go to Carte Blanche!

  2. hi all you frustrated and bewildered potential owner builders!
    the application process for owner builder is a bit vague and even the nhbrc is not always too clued-up or helpful. i know, i am busy applying for exemption – you will search in vain for this sought after procedure on their web site http://www.nhbrc.org.za – my guess is because they lose out on the 1.3% fee you’ve got to pay them [total cost of house plus erf!] which will further boost their billion plus coffers if you happen to have your home build by a registered home builder and have it enrolled by them [hence the exorbitant building costs of >zar6000 per m2].
    before starting let me refer you to a short summary of a court case, ruiters v minister of human settlements and another (13669/14) , [2015] zawchc 107 (12 august 2015) which can be read here http://www.stbb.co.za/wp-content/uploads/stbb_plu29-2015_s2.pdf , so remember to get ‘registered’ as owner builder before commencing your project in order to prevent a legal confrontation which, although you might win, costs time and money.
    next off is the procedure.
    1st thing to know is that you don’t as much ‘register’ as owner builder, you are requesting exemption from being regarded as a home builder, i.e. you ask to be exempted, not registered.
    you have to fill in the owner builder questionnaire which is here [not on their web site…] http://sans10400.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/owner-builder-questionnaire.doc
    if you and your spouse are co-owners of the erf, get a copy your marriage certificate ready [maybe they might also ask for your anc, so have a copy of that as well] if this is the case your spouse has to co-sign all documents. get your and if needed also your spouses’ id documents – copies thereof.
    if a friend will do most of the building or a contractor who is not a registered home builder with the nhbrc you have to fill in this power of attorney – also not on their web site – http://sans10400.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/owner-builder-power-of-attorney.pdf
    and now for a typical red tape burocrazy anomaly – the friend or builder must also fill in the owner builder questionnaire although most questions can’t even be answered by him – now that’s a joke you might say, but yes, this country has many jokes, and some pretty high up! also get your builder friend’s id copy.
    now there are three things left.
    write a short memo telling them why you would like to be exempt, this letter [also nowhere to be found on their web site] will give you a clue http://sans10400.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/owner-builder-exemption-form.pdf – note that they call it an affidavit, so take all documents to your nearest cop shop and do the necessary swearing [no pun intended] and stamping there.
    then go to the nhbrc office [the addresses are here http://www.nhbrc.org.za/contact/ ] and for zar90 or so get the publication [which might be the same than here http://www.nhbrc.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/home-building-manual-2014-final-oct-g1.pdf ], page through it that you know where more or less is what and if you want flag a page here and there.
    then go for the open book multiple choice exam at their offices – just ask them for times and days.
    now if all goes according to plan, they will let you know at some stage whether you made it or not.
    i have not written the multiple choice yet, so i can’t give you leads there.
    remember to get all above documents in neat and logical order, signed, stamped, sworn etc, make copies for yourself, write down all detail of persons, times and dates whom you might contact at the nhbrc and register al postage – just in case…
    in Christ

    • oh yes, i forgot, remember to attach a copy of your title deed – very important.
      in Christ

      • Hello Gabriel

        Thank you for the guidelines for Owner Built Houses.

        Can you please clarify the costing of the entire exercise/process. (i.e. all cost for Owner Built new house)

        I’m planning to embark on the journey but would like to plan certain cost.

        Thanks in Advance

  3. HI Penny
    we some times build boundary wall for clients ,do i need to be registered?
    or what is his responsibility to the project.

    what is the cost to be paid over to NHBRC for building a new house SAY it is R1200000.
    thx Herbert

  4. URGENT! Own builder needs informatiom

  5. What is the regulations on building a home from Shipping Containers

    • You need to follow all the relevant National Building Regs (e.g. site works, ventilation etc) but in terms of The application of the National Building Regulations Part A: General principles and requirements, you will also need an Agrément Certificate that “confirms fitness-for-purpose of a non-standardized product, material or component or the acceptability of the related non-standardized design and the conditions pertaining thereto (or both) issued by the Board of Agrément South Africa.” The Board of Agrément South Africa operates under the delegation of authority of the Minister of Public Works.

  6. If I am building for cash and employ a NHBRC Registered builder do I still need to register the project and pay the fee ?

  7. Good day,

    I have got a stand financed through a homeloan, i financing the house from my pocket, my builder is NHBRC registered, i have purchased all the material from my own pocket, i will only be paying for labour to the builder. what will the bank require from me? do i need to submit all contracts i have entered into with the builder, NHBRC house enrollment, etc…


  8. Good day

    I have read a lot about NHBRC and am very much interested in the company but i would like to know; what is NHBRC’s background, why was it started? Because i see that it is a very reputable company?

  9. Hi.
    Thanks for the easy-to-understand info.
    I have a stand (paid in full) which I would like to build on, with the intention of living there. I have family members with experience in the construction industry, and the plan is to pull together to build the house. (Architect uncle, draftsman brother, another brother has site work experience with casting, scaffolding and formwork, and he will supervise the house-building).
    I am planning to build a double storey house in 2 phases using FinnBuiler – and want to move into the groundfloor section of the house once it is complete. Building the second floor will only continue in about 2 years.

    1. I am planning to take a personal loan to fund a portion of the work. Will the funding of the job be considered cash?
    2. Would you recommend that the brother who will be supervising, take the NHBRC test, or should I apply for exemption?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Salome your first question: Be considered cash by whom? It’s irrelevant in terms of plans and NHBRC compliance. More importantly, will the bank allow you to use a personal loan for building. Apart from which it’s going to cost you a lot more money than a building bond would.
      Your second question: If you are the owner of the property – you would have to apply to be the owner builder – and so you would need to take the NHBRC test, which is required for exemption.

  10. I would like to know: I’m the owner of a vacant plot in a small Western Cape town and would like to build a log cabin on the property,nothing big, just for me and my husband. What are the requirements for such a building and are we as owners allowed to reside on the property while building? I know that we have to hand in building plans with the local Municipality for approval.

    I would really appreciate you reply by mail

    Thank you

    • The requirements are no different to any other part of the country. You need plans to be drawn up by a competent person and these must be approved by the local authority. Legally you cannot occupy a half-built dwelling, but you could probably camp on the property.

  11. hi,my boss would like to find out what would be needed for him to get a NHBRC certificate.he owns a company but now he wants to ge into building as well,he has qualified builders. what else must he have in order to get a certificate

  12. Hi,

    I’m having plans drawn up by an architect for some alterations and we are about to go into the submission phase but have hit a little snag.I would like to use a system devised by a manufacturer which is a a form of slip form shuttering. The system has been approved by the NHBRC. The architect wants to specify the method on the plan that it must be to engineers detail. Does this mean that I need to employ an engineer at additional costs that I have haven’t factored into my budget? or can the compliance certificate that the manufacturer will issue satisfy the regulatory requirements?


    • Hi Steve, If the system has an Agrément certificate from the SABS then there is no problem. The manufacturer must supply you with the installation standards that you can use as these should have been drawn up by an engineer before they had the system SABS Agrément approved.

  13. Hi
    can you answer a question for me please, my husband is going to build us a house and we will need to sell it within 5 years how does he become registered with the NHBRC in his personal capacity, he doesnt run a business, he does it as a hobby.

    Hayley Sparks 082xxxxxxx

    • Hi Hayley, Catch 22 – all new houses must be registered with the NHBRC as you know, as an “owner builder” you are not allowed to sell the house within 5 years, this is the law. The only way is to build the normal way and then you can sell it within the 5 years.

      • Hi Janek,
        can my husband do the technical test ? from what I read it means we will be NHBRC exempt and then we can sell when completed ?

        • Hi Hayley, Yes your husband can do the test and if he passes then you can get an exemption. But as an “Owner Builder” you are not allowed to sell for a period of 5 years after final approval.

  14. Tx for your article, in which you mentioned: “The applicant must agree to write the Technical”

    1. What precicely does this “technical” entails?
    2. Why should I, as the Owner Builder, do a “technical exam” – if I’ll be using highly skilled and competent builders, artisans, engineers and architects?
    3. I’ve had it “hinted” at me that, as Owner Builder, I need to personally have all these “skills and competencies”. I do not understand this (if it’s true), because (a) the reason for the excemption is because it’ll be my 1st house I’ll be staying in; won’t sell it in 5 yrs+; will be using cash; do not require “protection against myself” (etc); and (b) Strange … but it almost seems to me as though the NHBRC does not want me to use technically competent people (like their own NHBRC registerdet builders).

    • Paul, the information in this post is in the form of a letter from NHBRC’s Nomawethu Maqetuka. I presume he means technical test. Basically getting an exemption from the NHBRC means you don’t have to enroll your house and pay the relevant fees; and you don’t have to be registered as a builder with the NHBRC. But you are then taking some responsibility and need to have a modicum of building-related knowledge. The test they do is multiple choice and certainly not at the level of knowledge a trained engineer or architect would have. Nor do you need to know how to lay bricks etc.
      If you are going to use an NHBRC-registered builder, then there is no reason to apply for an exemption. In any case, the National Building Regulations require you to have a competent person draw up your plans and take responsibility for the build.

      • Hi Penny,so what you are saying to Paul was that if you do make use of a registered NHBRC Builder and the plans was drawn up by a registered draughtsman, I do not need to apply for exemption as ‘owner builder’ ? Please note, my situation is basically similary to that of Paul only that we, my wife and myself, are Pensionars. Your comments awaited accordingly.

  15. Hi there. Your website is perhaps the only one in SA that is full of resources and useful info- thanks. Question from my side- we bought a plot 10 years ago but have made a huge loss on it. We want to build to sell- but owner build (with help from a friend who is a builder- we would try to get him registered with the NHBRC- he really has a lot of experience!). Do you think we would be able to build a 100sqm home (using 190 blocks) for R500 000? We only have that available and cant get a further bond on our current property.

    • Your problem will be as an owner builder and building a new house is that as an owner builder you have to get an exemption from the NHBRC, and then as an owner builder you are then not allowed to sell the house for a period of 5 (five) years. If you have a friendly builder you might be able to build for that amount but I am not really sure. BTW thank you for the compliment 🙂

      • Hi. How does one get an exemption from the NHBRC?


        • Step number one contact the NHBRC – they have forms that need to be filled in. They will also explain all other steps you need to take.

          • Is it true that you cannot get a building loan as an owner builder?

          • No it is not true, though some of the banks will insist that you use an NHBRC builder. You will have to motivate you own specific case to a financial institution.

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