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If you have nice neighbours you are very lucky, however in reality some are not very pleasant and can make your life miserable at times. It is worth making the time getting to know those who live next to you, as neighbours can play an important role in our lives and our community, and it’s always a good thing to keep in mind that you are a neighbour too.

“Since the beginning of time we have seen countless dramas unfold due to neighbourly disputes and as many estate agents will testify, small problems between neighbouring properties can at times cause larger issues when it comes to the selling or the buying of one of the properties in question”, states Craig Hutchison, Engel & Völkers Southern Africa.

With the increasing trend to fit as many houses into developments and gated areas as possible, we are also seeing more instances of larger stands being subdivided and homes being built closer together. The problem however that arises with this is the increasing conflict that may occur between neighbours.

In our modern society disputes between neighbours can arise over a number of issues. The most common disputes that arise are usually over:

  1. Encroachment
    Encroachment is where you have erected a structure on your property and part of the structure is on a neighbouring property. This is trespassing and the encroaching land owner is legally responsible. Structures referred to include any building, driveway, path, retaining wall, fence, trees or any other improvements.
  2. Buildings
    When views are blocked by new building plans, neighbours do have some rights. In the case of over-coverage, unsightly buildings, inappropriate use of buildings and loss of views, plans can still be challenged and demolition ordered, even after the building has been erected.
  3. Boundary walls and Fences
    With boundary walls and fences, the generally accepted rule is that it is the joint property of the neighbours who are both equally liable for the walls/fences maintenance and repairs. However neither can make any changes to it without the consent of the other. Boundary encroachment is seen as the most common dispute, this can cover anything from tree trunks and branches encroaching on a neighbour’s property, roots uplifting neighbours pavement or at times walls or leaves falling into the neighbour’s pool. If your neighbour is not prepared to do anything and you don’t want to live with overhanging branches from your neighbour’s trees, you should ask him or her to cut them away, and to remove the cuttings from your side of the fence. If he or she refuses to do this, you can cut the branches back to the property line – however you’re not allowed to keep the cuttings unless your neighbour refuses to take them. If he or she refuses to take them you’d be within your rights to dispose of them, and to recover the costs of the disposal from the neighbour. Should none of these work, you could apply for an interdict to compel the neighbour to remove the branches.

“If you are a property owner you are entitled to the free use and enjoyment of your home. You may convert or alter your property provided that in doing so, you stay within the limits of local authority regulations and that you do not interfere with the legal rights of your neighbours”, says Craig. Read more  on our article “My Neighbour is building“.

After all, your home is your most valuable asset and it is important to ensure that you get along with your neighbours and that you can return home to a harmonious environment with no conflict at the end of each day, so always be considerate and lodging a complaint, take a moment to reflect on situations where you might also have been or could be on the other side of the fence” Craig concluded.

Source: Engel and Völkers