Boundary Disputes with your Neighbours
Many things can be the cause of a dispute with your neighbours, but here are some things to consider before it reaches that stage.
I have been witness to a few heated disputes with neighbours over boundary issues, whether it is about trees making a mess in gardens, common property issues, or something more serious. When living in a townhouse development, freehold property, or even sometimes sharing a balcony wall, there may come a time when you have issues with a neighbour. But before any dispute turns into a downright feud with legal implications, you might want to consider the following:
A man is the king of his castle, as the saying goes, and anything that intrudes upon the boundaries of his realm demands reaction. An overhanging branch, a damaged fence, or whatever the cause may be can result in heated exchanges or even thousands spent on legal fees. Sometimes, even small disputes can become complex legal cases when either party continues action as a matter of pride, no matter how small the alleged infringement.
The truth is that issues concerning property boundaries are rarely clear-cut and when properties change hands over the years, an issue that could have been building up for years might suddenly cause an uproar that could have been avoided if both parties had communicated the problem. Oftentimes, when someone purchases a property they might have to contend with something previous occupants have put up with for years.
When viewed by an outside party, boundary disputes can be so ridiculous that they are downright hilarious.
Ongoing communication towards an amicable resolution to disputes is always the best route and most definitely as an alternative solution before heading to court and having to pay expensive legal fees. Having said that, the problem lies in the fact that there are no solid lines, no distinct edges, no rules set down in stone that can be referred to when it comes to boundary disputes between neighbours. While those living with Body Corporate Rules will generally be governed by the same rules, those living on freehold properties have to try and solve a problem via open dialogue.
Find more information on boundary disputes in this article in our News section.
Following the practice of being neighbourly, any problems that arise should be discussed as soon as possible. If there are overhanging branches that you feel are causing damage to your property, discuss having these trimmed back, either by yourself or by your neighbour. Under common law governing overhanging branches, anything that overhangs your property can be cut off and returned to your neighbour without trespassing. Communication is far more conducive to amicably settling rather than screaming at your neighbour that you are going to sue him.
Another common problem where disputes occur is boundary or perimeter walls. Who do these belong to? Who is responsible for the cost of maintenance and repair? Who is at fault should the wall or fence fall down? These disputes can quickly escalate into a heated debate and high blood pressure with no solution forthcoming. Even contacting the local municipality may not yield successful results as to ownership. In these instances, it is far better to stay cool and look at the problem thoroughly. A shared wall should be viewed as such and any costs for maintenance and repair shared.
When communication is impossible and action for relief is not taken, the next step would be to contact a lawyer to discuss taking the matter forward. If all else fails, legal recourse may be the only solution to the problem, but at least you tried.