According to the property law in South Africa, proposed building plans must be submitted for approval to the local authority's building department.
While there is no legal requirement in the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act ("NBA") for an applicant to inform his or her neighbours of their application, there might be such a requirement in the by-laws of the local municipality.
However, if an application for the approval of building plans is made at the same time as an application for rezoning of the property, the relaxing of building lines, or the removal of a restrictive condition or covenant, the neighbours must be notified.
In terms of the NBA, unless it states otherwise in another law, neighbours do not have the right to object to building plans.
In certain cases, however, the municipality may invite neighbours to object to the building plans.
If an objection is submitted, it won't necessarily prevent the building plans from being approved. Even though the municipality is bound to consider the objection, it will still make up its own mind about whether or not the plans should be approved.
This does not mean that the rights of the neighbours are dismissed. The municipality is obligated to consider the rights of the neighbours in terms of Section 7 of the NBA.
Therefore, if a neighbour hears about a pending application, and he or she is unhappy about it, he or she may submit an objection or comments to the local municipality. The municipality will then have to consider those submissions when making its decision.
The only recourse that an aggrieved neighbour has is to apply for the court to review the decision to approve the plans, in terms of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act 3 of 2000 ("PAJA").
If the neighbours can convince the court that there were procedural flaws in the approval process, or that the proposed plans will negatively affect the neighbouring property, they will be successful in their application.
Building your dream home, or turning your existing home into the one you have always wanted, is the most exciting event in your life.
However, the excitement can be brought to a disturbing halt if you fail to follow any of the terms set under the property law of South Africa.
A lack of knowledge about property law can lead to a huge financial loss, in cases where your building renovations have to be stopped mid-way because it wasn't fully compliant with the law.
To avoid any financial loss, contact our attorneys in Johannesburg who specialise in property law.
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