Angry neighbours can topple your approved building plans

Even if your plans have been approved by the Municipality and you are complying with all the planning requirements such as set-backs and height restrictions, a dis-satisfied neighbour can still stop you from building.

Ian Slot, Southern Region director of Seeff Properties, warned this week that, in the light of a recent Constitutional Court judgment, property owners or potential purchasers intending to build or renovate may be well advised to canvass their neighbour’s attitude towards your proposed construction before laying a single brick even if they have approved plans. “A simply objection from across the fence can completely overturn Municipal approval of your building plans and stop you in your tracks” said Slot.

Slot said the warning bells sounded in the Constitutional Court with the case Walele vs City of Cape Town and Others 2008 (6) SA 129 (CC).

The judgment turned on Section 7 (1) (b) (ii) of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act 103 of 1977 which states that a municipality must reject a building plan if it is satisfied that the building to be erected would probably disfigure the area concerned, be unsightly or objectionable, negatively affect the value of adjoining or neighbouring properties or endanger life or property.

Ordinarily one would assume that if the Municipality considered these points and determined that the plans did not contravene these provisions the matter would end there.

However the Constitutional Court decided that even if the Municipality was satisfied that it was not in contravention, all that is needed is for a dis-satisfied neighbour to convince a court that for example, the proposed construction would de-value his property and the court must set the Municipality approval aside. So, Slot said, “the problem comes when your neighbour and local municipality don’t see eye to eye. Local officials may be convinced that the construction project in question is unlikely to create any of these problems, but a property owner in the area can challenge this opinion and that if they convince a court then the approval of the plans is set aside.”

For Slot, it’s more about keeping in with the Jones’s than keeping up with them. At the end of the day, it is best to cement your relationship with your neighbours and canvass their opinions before you even approach the municipality for approval, he advised.

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