Wed | Sep 19, 2018

A Matter of Land | Do I need building approval?

Published:Sunday | November 26, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Craig Francis
You need approval once you’re doing any external modification to your building.

Good day, readers. First, let me thank our guest columnist, Cassandra Francis, for filling in in recent weeks. The response to her has been tremendous, and we will have her back before the end of this year. Today, I respond to another query from a reader.

Good day, Mr Francis,

I am living in a gated community town house, which is not a strata. If I want to do an addition to the building, do I need to apply to the municipal corporation for approval, or is it that once I am not putting the extension into the common area I am fine?

- M.L.

Good day ML,

Thanks for the question as many persons are unaware of when they need to apply to their local authority (municipal corporation) for approval for constructions and many other things. However, it is good that you have sought information before doing any additions.


Approval must be sought for external modifications


Under the Building Act, permission is required for any of the following:

1. Construction/erection of building

2. Demolition of building

3. Additions/alterations and external repairs

4. Temporary building and farm house

5. Change in use of building from one use class to another - e.g., residential to commercial.

An application of such nature could take approximately four weeks for residential single family buildings, while all other application will take approximately 90 working days. If you are not sure whether you will require a permit, contact your local planning authority.

So, in short, yes, you need approval once you're doing any external modification to your building.


Get the appropriate professional to do design drawings


To get the nod from the municipal corporation, first you will be required to have the addition designed to meet the Jamaica Building Code standards.

Buildings greater than 300 metres square must be designed and stamped by registered professionals (architects/


Buildings less than 300 metres square can be designed by other qualified practitioners (licensed draughtsman).

However, buildings that are considered to be complex structures and/or requiring complex services, no matter the size, should be designed by registered professionals. So your first step is to get the requisite drawing done by the appropriate professional.

The next thing you need to do is to check with the management committee for your town house complex to see if they have an arrangement with the municipal corporation regarding approvals, as some gated communities are empowered by the local authority to pre-approve certain plans before it reaches them. Caribbean Estate is one such development.

So enquire of your complex managers if there is a similar arrangement.


A Surveyor's Report must be submitted with your application


When applying for your approval, there are several requirements they are as follows.

1. Completed application form with prescribed fees: Consult the local planning authority near you for required building fees. Other fees will be accrued, such as inspections.

2. Proof of ownership: This can be a certified copy of registered title, a certified copy of a will, a certified copy of a sales agreement or a certified copy of deed of gift/conveyance.

If you are not the owner of the land, a letter of authorisation from the owner, stamped and signed by a justice of the peace or a notary public should be presented.

3. Certificate of tax payment

4. Location map

5. Surveyor's report/diagram

6. Detailed construction drawings for proposed development including: a site plan showing the building layout and footprint, access and exit, elevation, section, electrical, sewage, roof, etc. Where the property adjoins a main road, two additional sets of plans are required.

When you apply for approval it should take four weeks to receive approval. I hope the process is a smooth one for you.

Until next time, traverse well.

- Craig Francis is a commissioned land surveyor and managing director of Precision Surveying Services Ltd. He can be contacted for questions or queries at or Precision Surveying Services.