Ways to resolve neighbour disputes

Homeowners can select their home, but they cannot select their neighbours. When resolving issues that arise from across their boundary wall, homeowners are encouraged to first seek to reach amicable solutions before involving the local authorities.

“Dealing with neighbour disputes is an unfortunate by-product of homeownership,” says Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, Adrian Goslett. These tend to increase over the festive season when many take their annual leave and spend more hours at home.

“The reassuring thing is that there are laws that exist to protect the interest of homeowners who are living within their rights,”

The local police station can follow up on complaints around either boundary wall offences or noise complaints.

Boundary wall offences

“When it comes to boundary issues, 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.”

Noise complaints

“For noise complaints, homeowners could lay a charge based on either a ‘Disturbing Noise’ or ‘Noise Nuisance’. The former refers to objectively loud noises such as late-night parties, while the latter refers to subjective noises that disrupt the ongoing peace of an individual, such as the non-stop barking of a neighbour’s dog.”

After receiving the complaint, the local authorities start by issuing a warning call or an official notice, which is usually enough to get the neighbour to correct the issue. If they choose to ignore the warning,  homeowners may request the local authority to issue the offending neighbour with a fine.

Further action

If these interventions still do not help, homeowners may choose to bring the issue to their nearest court to apply for an interdict to prevent the neighbour from continuing the offending behaviour. They could also sue the neighbour for damages that may have resulted from their offense. In these cases, they warn that the homeowner will need 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.

However, before involving the police or going to these extreme measures, they recommend that homeowners first try to resolve the issue directly with their neighbour.

“Taking these issues up with the authorities can be an uncomfortable process when you live next to the person you’re calling the cops on.” It is always advisable to attempt to resolve these issues between the responsible parties before getting others involved.

“Try to keep calm and have the discussion with your neighbour face-to-face. Remember, you’re going to be living side by side for some time still, so you do not want to make things any more uncomfortable than they already are,” he concludes.

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