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Penalty for contraventions of zoning provisions

George Municipality would like to highlight a recent Supreme court case which upheld the argument that municipalities are entitled to levy penalty rates based on the Municipal Structures Act where a property (home) is being used to conduct a business, if the use is in contravention of the property’s zoning provisions. Municipalities are entitled to levy penalty rates based on the Municipal Structures Act which is the umbrella act under which the Rates Act falls.

Director for Planning and Development at George, Lauren Waring said that her directorate is aware that there are many businesses being operated from residential zoned properties and, where the purpose and nature of the use has changed completely, these owners will find themselves in contravention and can face contravention levies, penalties, fines and even imprisonment.

The zoning of a property determines the primary use and other ancillary uses that the property may be utilised for. The zoning also determines the restrictions or parameters within which the applicable use rights may be exercised or if the consent of the municipality is required for the use. If a property is used outside its zoning, the municipality can change the category of use to unlawful or uncategorised use and increase the municipal rates in accordance with the new category.

If you are contemplating setting up a business in a residential area or from your home you need to understand all the relevant provisions regarding the zoning of your property to ensure that you are complying with the bylaws. Zoning schemes bylaws stipulate what type of buildings and what type of activities can occur in a particular property.

In technical terms, a zoning scheme is a legal document that records all land use rights on properties in its area of jurisdiction. It also includes provisions pertaining to restrictions on such rights and how they can be exercised. Within a zoning scheme, there are certain land uses and activities that can be taken as a right and certain land uses and activities that are only permitted with the local authorities consent. If the land use or activity is not stated, then it is not allowed on that property.

For minor deviations from the provisions of the zoning scheme, one may apply for a Departure. For major deviations for a change in land usage or change in the type of building, one requires a Rezoning. The George Municipality’s zoning scheme allows certain residential business activities as a right on Single Residential properties. These include home occupations (professional practices with no more than 3 people employed), places of instruction up to 6 learners at a time, and a bed and breakfast (not more than 2 guest rooms). Other uses such as a house shop (small retail business), guest houses and creches are permitted with the Consent of the municipality.

Any business that is run from home and does not fall under these land uses / activities, are not permitted on residential properties. The zoning by-laws state that such businesses can only be conducted in areas zoned for business or industrial purposes and not in residential areas. These business activities will require you to apply for either a departure or a rezoning.

How to apply for a rezoning or departure
The Land Use Management Application form is used when submitting a planning application. The form needs to be completed in full and accompanied by the relevant supporting information and documentation. It is important to note that submitting this application does not necessarily mean it will be approved.

Businesses in residential areas tend to generate traffic, parking, noise, and other problems, with some being known to be used as fronts for illicit activities. The concerns and objections of residents will be considered with each application.

The land use application process can take, on average between six and nine months, depending on the level of public participation needed, whether objections are received against the application, and which authority decides on the application. Any business that cause disturbances to neighbours such as vehicle repair workshops, night clubs, manufacturing enterprises, etc will generally not be permitted in a residential area.

George Municipality has an internet-based land use application system to enable the electronic submission and processing of land use applications. This system will be soon be moving to an on-line platform. All application forms, application submission requirements and public participation requirements are available on the George Municipality’s website at

All completed applications are submitted via email to and applicants will receive SMSs on the progress made on their applications.