What is the Law on Rezoning of Property in South Africa?

As cities and towns grow across a country, certain areas are usually designated for specific types of development. At first glance, this seems perfectly reasonable, after all, nobody wants a noisy factory or a 50-story apartment building suddenly popping up next door to their quiet, suburban home. The issue with all this city planning is that, eventually, the nature of these areas begins to change and new rules have to be adopted. Over time, residential areas turn into business hotspots and agricultural zones make way for industrial complexes. But how does all this get done? How do you go about rezoning an area and what does the law say about it? What is the Law on Rezoning of Property in South Africa?

When dealing with the topic of rezoning, there are two primary pieces of legislation to consider –

  • The Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act 16 of 2013This act provides a basic framework for zoning and rezoning across the entire country. It highlights the different categories of land use in South Africa along with key information regarding land use schemes.
  • Relevant Municipal Legislation – The aforementioned act has to be considered in conjunction with the by-laws of each specific area or municipality. For example, land use changes in KZN would also be governed by the KZN Planning and Development Act. This means that any rezoning attempts will include elements that are specific to their respective locales.
What is the Law on Rezoning of Property in South Africa?
What is the Law on Rezoning of Property in South Africa?

What is the Process of Rezoning Land?

As noted, each municipality is going to have its own tailored procedures when it comes to the act of rezoning, as such, it’s impossible to say exactly how things will play out without knowing the specifics of your area. That said, there are some general steps that apply almost universally, they include the following –

  • Submit an Application – You will normally need to submit an application to the relevant authorities at your local municipality stating your wish to rezone your property. Each application will usually need to be accompanied by a mountain of paperwork which often makes the process quite complex.
  • Notify any Interested Parties – Applicants will generally need to put a notice of intention of application in the Government Gazette while notifying all relevant parties who may be affected by the rezoning (ie, neighbours who may experience a sudden influx of traffic around their properties). This process allows all those affected to bring forth any reasonable objections that they may have and could end up impacting the success of your application. 
  • Think about Consulting a Professional – Due to the highly intricate nature of a rezoning appeal, it is recommended that you consult a town planner or an attorney who specialises in such matters as the process will be very difficult for the average person to complete without assistance.

How Long Does Rezoning Take in South Africa?

Rezoning is a notoriously lengthy undertaking. On average, applications will take a couple of months to process (anywhere between 6-18), at which point they will either be approved or denied. Unfortunately, objections to the rezoning can be made during this period which could seriously delay the proceedings until they are resolved. In certain cases, the entire endeavour can end up taking years to complete.

This is another reason why many people end up hiring professionals to handle the rezoning applications on their behalf. Not everyone has the patience and the free time required to deal with such prolonged tasks. 

Can you Rezone Property?

Many factors go into determining whether or not you’ll be able to successfully rezone your property, the most common of these are –

  • The Current Nature of the Property as well as the Proposed Change – Each type of zone has different regulations and restrictions which apply to it, these limitations will impact what kinds of land use changes can be made and to what degree. For example, it’s quite common for people to rezone a property in a residential area into that of a small business. On the other hand, it would be next to impossible to change a residential property in the middle of a quiet suburb into a massive factory. 
  • The By-laws of the Area – As noted, certain areas have far harsher limitations in terms of rezoning than others. As a result, the municipality’s rulings in your area will determine whether or not rezoning will be possible.
  • Objections to the Rezoning – During the rezoning process, certain individuals (such as neighbours) will have the opportunity to lodge complaints against the action. After considering these complaints, the municipality may choose to deny your application.

What is the Cost of Rezoning?

As mentioned, your specific municipality will have different application charges than others, and thus, it’s impossible to say exactly how much rezoning will cost you. That said, rezoning is usually pretty expensive and application fees alone will normally cost thousands of rands (keep in mind these applications may still be denied). Beyond this initial expense, most people will need to hire a professional to help them navigate through such a confusing process which could end up costing even more.

Subdividing Property vs RezoningWhat is the Law on Rezoning of Property in South Africa?

Subdividing property is (as the name suggests) the process of splitting your property into two or more sections. Subdividing is commonly used by people who have large areas of unused land which they do not wish to maintain. Instead of keeping or selling the entire property, they divide it into portions and only keep the area they need.

Subdividing is often brought up when discussing the topic of rezoning. But why is this the case? Well, subdividing property usually requires the rezoning of that same property due to the change in size. In other words, a person interested in rezoning their property may not have to deal with subdividing, but a person interested in subdividing will normally have to deal with rezoning.

What is the Law on Rezoning of Property in South Africa?
What is the Law on Rezoning of Property in South Africa?

In Conclusion – What does the Law say about Rezoning Property?

While a basic, nationwide framework for rezoning exists in the form of the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act, the process of rezoning property itself is heavily determined by the municipal bylaws of each specific area, in other words, everything from the cost of the application fees to the average wait time for approval will depend on your specific location. While this fact prevents us from going into too much detail on the subject, we can at least attempt to cover it more broadly while identifying the basics. What is the Law on Rezoning of Property in South Africa?

When attempting to rezone your property you will need to do the following –

  • Submit an application to the relevant municipality.
  • Place your notice of intention of application in the Government Gazette.
  • Inform all relevant parties (such as neighbours) about the rezoning.
  • Think about hiring a professional who can handle the application process for you.

Many people who are interested in rezoning tend to hire professionals as the application procedure is very complex and can take up a lot of time. On average, applications will take many months to be approved and may take even longer if complaints are lodged by concerned parties. The applications are also quite expensive and costs will increase if you intend to hire an expert. It is also worth noting that applications are not always approved and there is a chance that you will not see any positive results from all your expenditures.

Another important factor to be considered when rezoning is the potential change in the nature of the property itself. Minor alterations, such as a switch from a purely residential property to that of a small business, may be fairly easy to achieve while larger conversions will normally have less chance of being accepted.

The practice of subdividing property is frequently brought up when dealing with rezoning, this is because subdivided properties will usually require rezoning once their size changes, and thus, the two procedures often go hand-in-hand.

When searching for professionals in this field, many people look to either town planners or to attorneys who specialise in rezoning applications and appeals.

Disclaimer LAW101: All of our posts are for research purposes only. Law 101 aims to assist its readers with useful information on the laws of our country that can guide you to make decisions in line with the South African Governmental Laws currently in place. Although our posts cite the constitution in many instances, they are intended to assist readers who are looking to expand their knowledge of the law. Should you require specific legal advice we advise you to get in touch with a qualified legal expert.

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