Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Houses built in Namibia not always up to scratch

((First appeared in Consumer News Namibia Magazine September 2013)

Recently a reader contacted the Consumer News Namibia magazine to complain about the housing. Various consumers have complained about the high cost of housing, the skyrocketing of rents and generally the lack or shortage of housing. This consumer had a very different complaint and led to some in-depth investigation to understand the issues involved.

The reader states “I have recently moved into a complex that was built within the last four to five years. The previous tenants were students and therefore I accepted there were some shortcomings on the property and the landlord and I agreed to deduct the costs of renovations or replacements to the building that I may incur. Once I moved in I started realizing there were problems that were not made by tenants, but rather structural problems in the way the property was built. To name just a few:
·         The geyser outlet pipe on the first floor is directly above the back door on the ground floor. This means when the water overflows it drops directly over the backdoor leaving a pool of water. As the geyser is on the first floor, it is very difficult to get to the outlet pipe and will need a professional to fix this problem.
·         The backyard of the property has no drain at all. There are two taps for the washing machine and the washing machine outlet is there, but the additional tap in the backyard has no drain into which it flows. Further, as there is no drain, all the water has to drain out through the neighbours backyard through a very small opening. I am sure this will cause a major problem when the rainy season starts.
·         The stairway is to narrow and not high enough to pass a double bed upstairs. We had to hoist the bed over the balcony to get it into the bedroom.
I contacted the consumer and got the details of where the flat is situated and was able to get more information regarding the developers.

Neither the developers nor the builders have responded to any questions in this regard so I decided to take this up with the relevant authorities. This was not an easy task. The law that is applicable is apparently not the Namibian Standards Act of 2005 as this Act clearly states in Section 35 (3) that "Any standard building regulation which was framed and published in terms of 14bis of the Standards Act, 1962 .. and which was in force immediately before the commencement of the Act, remains in force..."

Thus the Namibian Standards Institute is not the relevant authority.

Not having access to the Standards Act of 1962, I then contacted the City of Windhoek (where the property is situated) and was informed the Occupational Health and Safety Section of the Health Services Division is involved in the registration of businesses and the approval of building plans.  The most I could confirm with the Municipality that the building complies with the regulations at the time of sale and a building compliance certificate should have been obtained if the property ownership was transferred after 19 August 2011. These new regulations were introduced by the City in an effort to bring in a control system to enforce correct and approved building plans.

As the property in question was built before this date, it might be that certain elements in the building do not comply with the regulations. If this is the case, the City of Windhoek assured me that when the owner wants to sell such a property, they will have to rectify these issues.

Unfortunately, the investigation is not able to address the reader’s complaint and find a solution. However, we would like to caution our readers who might have properties to sell, that they as the present owner would be responsible for the cost of rectifying these mistakes when the wish to sell the property.

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