Owner Builder Requirements – NHBRC

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


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  1. Hi Penny,

    We are in the process of selling a plot which we had ‘owner built’ a farm house on. We did not enrol the house with nhbrc and have been now requested by the bank to provide this enrollment certificate. Is an enrollment certificate needed even for farmhouses? And what can we do to now retrieve a certificate? Can we apply for an exemption? Or can we own up to our mistake and pay the fine?

    • Every building (other than those in informal settlements) must comply with the NBR. Also all residential dwellings, in cities, towns and in the country are subject to the Housing Consumers Protection Measures Act – which is where the NHBRC comes in. You can try pleading ignorance though that isn’t a defence in law. Essentially you should have obtained an exemption before you started building. I guess you’re going to have to pay a fine!

  2. Hi
    We are considering buying and renovating / converting a block of flats. We will be owner renovators and want to find out whether we have to register with NHBRC or apply for exemption.
    Also not sure what happens if units are not being sold but rather let out and we are the owners of the property.

  3. Hi Penny. I would like to purchase an unfinished property. The house has been on the market for 1 year. It has come to light the house is owner built and was not registered with the NHBRC. Since the house is still in an incomplete state (yet habitable) the question is, can the current owners still apply for the certificate, and if they don’t, am I as the new home owner able to do so after the fact? Thank you

    • If the house was “owner built” the owner needs to have an exemption from enrolling the house with the NHBRC. If he/she doesn’t then the house is technically illegal! Also, if the owner didn’t get an exemption, by law the house should have been built by a builder registered with the NHBRC – and the house should have been enrolled. How it works is that the NHBRC does progressive checks to make sure the house is built correctly (this is in addition to inspections made by the council’s building inspector). So it stands to reason they aren’t going to consider enrolment after the fact.

  4. I am an NHBRC registered building contractor building my own house as I have the available funds. I did not enroll my house as I am both the owner and contractor. I do not make use of any loans.My house is already wall plate hight and according to NHBRC inspector I need to late enroll my house. The house plans were approved by the local municipality with an appointed civil engineer. What is my options? Do I have any legal rights or exemption from enrollment?

    • HiJD, As you are a contractor in the industry and registered with the NHBRC it is your duty to know what the law is! Your house has nothing to do with the finances but has to do with the law. ie The fact that you are not making use of loans is irrelevant. As you are an owner builder you can apply for an exemption – though you should have done this prior to building, and because you didn’t the NHBRC is entitled to fine you. To qualify for the exemption, you will have to pass a multiple choice test to establish your knowledge as a builder. Presumably that won’t be a problem since you are a contractor. to be the “competent person” for the build. Presumably you are aware that owner builders may not sell their houses within five years.

  5. We are building in an estate and need some help what can I do to enroll our house without getting a fine our builder thought we paid and we thought it was part of his price. I dont mind paying it but dont want a fine ive heard it can be a fine of over 1mil.

    • It is the builder’s responsibility. He should be registered and he then enrolls the houses that he is going to build. I think it is common practise for builders to force their clients to pay – but they are the ones who are registered – not you! I would tell him to sort this out … and if he won’t report him to the NHBRC.

  6. Hi

    I am intending on purchasing a plot of land within a private reserve. I want to build myself (with the help of friends/family/semi-skilled builders on an ad hoc basis) with my own monthly cash injections (there are NO restrictions on time for completion).

    However, if I would apply for exemption, I would not be able to sell the house after 5 years to someone who requires bank finance !
    QUESTION 1: Is this true ?

    If I wanted to sell the house before/after 5 years to someone who required a bank loan, I would have to register the house with NHBRC.
    QUESTION 2 : Is this true ?

    I will purchase material on a monthly basis, but the NHBRC requires fees by the cost of construction+plot. This is difficult to provide @ R/m2 as I will be building at less than the current rate of R/m2.
    QUESTION 3 : How do I estimate the fee for NHBRC ?


    • Q1 Yes it is true – but it isn’t only someone who needs bank finance … as an owner builder you can’t sell within five years. It’s a safeguard to stop builders doing spec building without registering houses.
      Q2 Not in terms of the NBR – the problem though is that some banks simply won’t give a loan if the house wasn’t registered with the NHBRC – which is ridiculous.
      Q3 I can’t comment on how the NHBRC works out fees/costs etc. However to register with the NHBRC you need to be a builder! If you’re building with friends, family and semi-skilled labour you’re unlikely to fit their mould.

  7. what law is it that makes nhbrc certification mandatory for owner builders.?

  8. I want to build a barn on a piece of farm land that I own.

    is this also subject to the NHBRC for Owner builder, or is it only relevant if it’s a home/house?

  9. Hi all

    I would like some help on the following please
    1 . How is a temporary structure is differentiated from permanent one.
    2. Is a rondawel built in the traditional eastern cape way considered a legal permanent structure?
    3. Could I build another rondawel in the traditional way?

  10. Hi – please assist. I bought a stand 60% bank and 40% cash, I am building cash because the bank route is very expensive and time consuming. I am 5% to finish the house. this guys appeared from nowhere and stopped my builders from building because he said they are not NHBRC registered. Am I forced to hire a person who is NHBRC registered even if I am building from my pocket and why?

    • Yes you are, unless you owner build, in which case you need to get an exemption certificate from the NHBRC. They will probably fine you!

  11. hi Penny,

    Please confirm if I financed the plot and the building contractor is NHBRC registered, do I still need to seek an exemption or is the structure going to be registered by the building contractor?

    • No. But he needs to enrol the house and is likely to want you to pay the fees. You could though get an exemption to be an owner builder and still use the contractor. You won’t then be able to sell the house for 5 years.

  12. Hi
    with regards to putting up a commercial building (Owner Builder) and wanting to register a bond after completion, is a NHBRC builder then required.

    i know that NHBRC is only for houses. just wondering in the above case.

  13. Can you advise as to the percentage of the building and Erf values the NHBRC charge for thier service and registration. I am building a new home in the Cape Town area



  14. carina courtney

    Hi Penny, we need to apply for the exemption as owner builders however we live in Johannesburg, our plot is situated just across the Vaal River ie in the Free State. Can we still lodge our application and write the test in JHB at the Sunninghill office? Thanks

  15. Are there NHBRC specifications related to laying ceramic tiles in a house? And if so, where would I be able to find

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