Planning to Convert Your Residential Home into a Commercial Property?

Town planning in South Africa has to be done within the framework of the overall spatial development plans, urban and regional planning strategies and that of the land use management laws. Even if you just want to start a business from your home that is based in a residential area, you will probably need the expert guidance and assistance offered by town planning specialists.

Take, for example, how a seemingly straightforward process of opening a home office can actually become a rather complex process. Say you would like to open a lifestyle consultancy business or perhaps a tax consultancy office at your home. At first, you run the business from a spare room in the house, but the room soon becomes too small. You have hired staff and they need space. You want a reception area, kitchen, and copier room. In addition, you need more parking spaces for the staff and clients.

You decide to buy a new house where you can move to and convert your entire existing home into a business office. There is just one snag – the house is located in a residential area that is not zoned for commercial operations. In order to operate the business from the premises, you now need to apply for a rezoning certificate for the property that will allow you to have the house converted into a full business premises. This can often be a time-consuming process and the business of how to go about in applying for the zoning.

Fortunately, town planning experts in South Africa like The Practice Group are available to handle the process on your behalf. You will need to apply for the right to put up signage, convert the existing pavement in front of the house into additional parking space, and more. If you had thought that it would be an easy process, think again. With the house no longer being used for residential purposes, the neighbours have to be notified of your intention to have the property rezoned. After all, they are affected by the increase in traffic. You can expect objections and this is where the public advocacy role of the town planners becomes so important.

The local council has to consider the concerns of the neighbours and the rezoning must be in line with the overall urban development plans. The process includes application for a zoning scheme departure, the advertising of your intention in local newspapers, and giving interested and affected parties time to object to the zoning application. Once the departure is granted, it must be followed by the zoning approval.

You would also have to obtain trading licenses where relevant. Fortunately, in this case, the services you offer do not include entertainment, health services, the supply of perishables or the selling of liquor and therefore you would not need these special trading licenses, but the council will still review your application according to supporting motivation, the number of businesses already operating in the area, the affect it will have on the surrounding area, and other considerations. It is best to make use of town planning experts right from the start to avoid potentially costly pitfalls.

Of course, if you continue to use only a small portion of your house and do not put up signage, you would not have to go through the trouble of submitting a zoning application. You could always just rent an office at an existing office block as well, but, if you want to create a distinctive brand environment, then going through the trouble to get the property rezoned can be worth your while after all. The above is just one scenario in which you will benefit from town planning guidance in South Africa. Also, if you want to sub-divide your property to build separate offices in the front part of the parcel of land with your house in the back, or if perhaps you want to convert your home into a medical practice space, how do you go about it? What if you need to register right of way on someone else’s property?

You may even have thought of setting up a neighbourhood gym and lifestyle club facility, but unless the zoning of the area already allows for this, it is best to consult with town planning consultants in South Africa regarding how to do it, what the costs are and what timeframe you can expect.