What is a zoning certificate?


Every property in South Africa has a linked zoning certificate which specifies what a property owner can do with his/her property.

A zoning certificate indicates what a property owner can build on his/her property, as well as other development controls, such as:

Zoning class: A property is categorised in a certain zoning class, such as “Residential 1”, “Agricultural”, “Commercial”, “Industrial”, etc. Zoning classes are categories that a Municipality uses to categorise properties different in areas.

Permitted land uses: Land uses that are allowed under a certain zoning class. For example, a “dwelling house” is a land use that is allowed under the “Residential 1” zoning class.

Land uses with Consent: Certain land use rights under the zoning class of a property’s zoning that can be obtained with the consent/permission of Council. These uses can be obtained without changing the main zoning classification of the property. For example; consent for a crèche may be obtained under a “Residential 1” zoning.

Non-permitted land uses: Land uses that are not allowed under a certain zoning class.

FAR (Floor to Area Ratio): Represents the maximum area a property owner can develop in relation to the size of the property. FAR is also known as the allowable “bulk” of the property. FAR = total floor area/size of property

The use-able “bulk” of a property is further defined and control by the following:

  • Coverage: Percentage of a property that can physically be covered by buildings (footprint);
  • Height: Number of storeys allowed;
  • Parking Ratio: Number of parking bays to be provided in terms of the property’s zoning class;
  • Building line: Allowable buildable distance from a boundary wall
  • Density: Number of residential units per hectare (ha) allowed to be built.

Background: Title Deeds & Zoning Certificates


In the past, prior to any National Building Regulations and Town Planning Schemes, title deeds of properties were used to control and regulate properties and developments in terms of allowable densities, the construction materials that can be used, minimum allowable pitch of a roof and purposes for which a property may be used for.

Formerly, a building plan could not be approved if there were restrictive development conditions in the title deed of a property. These restrictive title deed conditions were to be removed or amended in order to allow the proposed development.

These conditions are nowadays all controlled by Town Planning Schemes, zoning certificates, National Building Regulations etc. Before any development can take place on a property, a property owner must ensure that the property’s zoning is in line with the proposed development, otherwise his/her building plans cannot be approved.

The Municipality may serve a contravention notice on a property owner if the development is not in line with the applicable zoning regulations. The contravention notice will provide the property owner with roughly a month to put an end to the illegal/non-permitted use on the property, or to be compliant with the zoning regulations. 

A zoning certificate can be obtained from the Municipality with the assistance of a professional town planner in order to obtain clarity that your proposed development is in line with the zoning regulations. A zoning certificate can be very technical and it is therefore suggested to be guided by a professional town planner should there be any difficulties.

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