Dealing with some sort of neighbour dispute is an unavoidable part of life for most people.
Fortunately South Africa’s laws tend to be on the side of the reasonable neighbour who just wants to live in peace, says Adrian Goslett, regional director and CEO of Remax Southern Africa.
He noted that resolving neighbour disputes can be a time-consuming process if you have to take it up with authorities, so it is always advisable to attempt to resolve it with your neighbour before you get others involved.
However, sometimes these issues cannot be resolved no matter how diplomatic, polite and reasonable you might have been when you approached the issues, he said.
“Issues that can be dealt with at a local police station include boundary wall offences and noise complaints.”
“In many cases, just one warning call or notice from a local police station is enough to set a neighbour straight. But, if they choose to ignore the warning, then you are allowed to request that your local authority issue them with a fine,” he said.
Below, Goslett outlines some of the legal grounds on which you may approach authorities to assist with neighbour disputes:
Legally, the boundary wall belongs to both neighbours.
However, whatever falls to either side of it belongs to the neighbour who owns that property.
If your neighbour builds a structure or plants a tree that encroaches onto your property, you are allowed to lay a formal complaint against him/her. This does not, however, include things like shadows or buildings that block your view.
These fall under two categories: ‘Disturbing Noise’ and ‘Noise Nuisance’.
The former refers to objectively loud noises. Things like late-night parties usually fall under this classification.
The latter refers to subjective noises that disrupt the ongoing peace of an individual. Things like the non-stop barking of a neighbour’s dog is a perfect example of things that fall under this category.
Both of these categories are illegal behaviours and perpetrators can be fined or even arrested for continuing with these actions at any point during the day.
“As an absolute last resort, you may bring the issue to your nearest court where you can apply for an interdict to prevent your neighbour from continuing the offending behaviour,” said Goslett.
“You may also sue your neighbour for damages that may have resulted from their offense. In these cases, however, you will be required to provide evidence that the matter is something that any reasonable person would find intolerable to live with and that is having a seriously negative effect on the enjoyment of their property.
“But, even with the legal recourse you are allowed to take, we would still recommend trying to resolve the issue face to face. Remember, you’re going to be living side by side for some time still,” Goslett said.