There's good on both sides of the fence

Pesky neighbours who make a nuisance of themselves can of course be taken to task in terms of the law, which in South Africa gives owners considerable rights when it comes to the undisturbed use of their own properties.

"But legal action against a neighbour may not only be costly and time consuming, it is also very likely to further sour relations and make living next door to one another unbearably unpleasant," says Berry Everitt, MD of the Chas Everitt International property group.

"So the best plan of action is to try and resolve any differences amicably - or to avoid them in the first place."

Writing in the Property Signposts newsletter he says it is thus wise to remember when buying property that you are not only choosing a home, you are also choosing eighbours.

"And because people keen to sell their property are unlikely to spill the beans if they have 'problem' neighbours, you should visit the property and the area on different days and at different times to ensure that the neighbours are not given to regular late-night partying that would disturb you, or running a home business that that entails lots of traffic, noise and security risks."

Everitt also says that once you move into a new home, it is a good idea to establish cordial relationships with your new neighbours from the word go.

"Open lines of communication will make it much easier to broach any matter that may cause friction.

"The other side of this coin, of course, is that you should also be good neighbour and not interfere with other owners' rights to enjoy their properties."

In this regard, it is worth noting that plans to build or replace boundary fences or walls should first be discussed with neighbours, although they are not obliged to contribute to the costs.

"Also you should take special care to establish exactly where the boundary between the two properties is - encroaching only a few centimetres on to your neighbour's property could entitle him to apply to have the whole structure demolished."

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