Questions regarding neighbours, boundaries, property rights | Legal Articles


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Questions regarding neighbours, boundaries, property rights

Landowners are entitled to make full use of every aspect of their property for whatever means they choose within the limits of state and legal authority regulations. 


They also need to heed the rights of neighbours who are entitled to the same right with regards to their own property. 

The rights extended to you and your neighbours are determined by the boundaries between your properties. 

Of course, informing oneself of these rights and obligations is the perfect way to ensure that a good relationship is maintained between neighbours whilst making full use of the rights afforded you.

How can I determine the boundaries of my property?

Usually the boundaries of a property are recorded and kept by the local authority in control of the area. 

These plans should always be referred to if a dispute arises between you and your neighbour regarding boundaries. 

If the dispute cannot be resolved and both parties are not able to come to an agreement then a registered land surveyor will need to re-establish this boundary.

What will happen if I build on my neighbour's property?

In the event of building part of your house on your neighbour’s property a few things could happen. 

The neighbour could request that the section that extends onto their property be demolished, or that they receive compensation for the use of that portion of land. 

You may also be admonished to take transfer of the section of the property that you built on in the event that the court deems the destruction of said part as unreasonable or that the benefit is overshadowed by the costs of removing it.

If the owner of the property that was encroached upon has not exercised their right to insist on removal, this right may be lost within one year and one day of becoming aware of the encroachment. 

This owner may be given compensation for their troubles, including the value of the portion of land built on, legal costs involved with the transfer process and if the neighbour is directed to take transfer. 

Another alternative could be for the owner of the property that was encroached upon to take ownership of the part of the structure that is on their side of the property. 

However, this is only possible if said structure is independent of any structure built on the land of the encroaching neighbour or if it can be separated from such structure without difficulty.

Who is responsible for upkeep of the boundary wall?

Generally the boundary between two properties is divided by the adjoined properties. So it stands half on one side and half on the other side. 

In some cases, each part of the boundary or boundary wall is separately owned by the owner on which side it stands. Making adjustments to the wall such as removing it, raising the height or lowering it may not be possible unless both parties have agreed to it. 

The exception to this rule is in the event of an unforeseen occurrence or emergency in which both parties would have to split the costs (if the neighbour will benefit from it) in order to have the boundary wall repaired. 

The wall may be broken down if a neighbour seeks to replace the current wall with a more expensive one, however this is at their own cost.

The costs of repairs and maintenance done to the wall is usually shared between the parties involved. 

This does not mean that an owner is obligated to contribute to the cost or replacement of an unreasonably expensive boundary wall even if it was what had been originally erected between the properties. 

Ultimately, whatever the amount that is spent on the wall or for whatever purpose that it is used, it is best to come to an agreement with your neighbour  to reduce the complications that could arise on this subject.

What guidelines should be followed with shared driveways?

In the case of shared driveways, owners usually have a specified half which they have the right to use or they may have undivided entitlement to its usage. 

Who owns it and who may use it is stipulated in the plans or determined by right of servitude. Each person has a specific right afforded to them with regards to the shared driveway. 

Even if your neighbour is the owner of said driveway, they would be going against your rights if they in some way caused an obstruction which prevented you from getting into the garage on your property. 

If in a public place, it is better to ask the police for assistance. However, if it is on privately owned property then you will need to seek help from your attorney in order to have the owner remove it. 

If no resolution can be found to the problem then a court order will have to be obtained to force the owner to remove the obstacle or to allow you to remove it yourself. 

Who is responsibles for the cost of repairs to boundary walls?

Payment for repairs of shared driveways, walls and fences is usually the responsibility of the owner or owners of said property. 

This is clearly specified in the title deed and if there is a servitude in place, it could make that single owner entirely responsible for the costs of repairs and maintenance. 

Although in the event of a servitude being in place, the person who has the servitude may have to initially make the payment to the contractor and then send the bill to the owner. 

This is because the contractor may decide against the repairs because maybe the person who is liable for the costs won’t pay. 

If not bound by a servitude, the owner of the boundary wall or driveway isn’t under obligation to carry out repairs. This excludes the situation where such property could lead to public endangerment. 

A local authority could then order said owner to make the necessary repairs. They will also be responsible if these defects lead to the damaging of your own property. 

Although in real terms it is generally best for neighbours to agree to share the costs associated with repairs. 

All communication should be either done through exchange of letters that specify the work that needs to be done and how these costs are to be shared between the parties involved. 

An attorney could act as a medium when coming to an agreement to ensure the smooth running of the process. 

What should can I do in the event of overhanging trees or intruding roots on my property?

Another situation that could cause problems in relation to boundaries is when your neighbour has overhanging branches or intruding roots on your property. 

While you could ask them to remove cut the branches overhanging your property, they may refuse to do so and so you will have to do it yourself. 

Although you may only be allowed to keep these branches in the event that your neighbour doesn’t collect them. If you had to spend money on this process you can then request compensation from them for the removal of these branches. 

Another option would be to get a court order to force them to remove the overhanging branches. This also applies in the situation where the roots of a tree intrude into your property or cause damage to it.

If damage is caused by the leaves of a neighbour’s tree you won’t be able to claim damages as such damages could have been avoided by routine maintenance. 

The neighbour is not obligated to remove fallen leaves, branches or fruit from your garden that comes from a tree on their property either. 

If not restricted by a servitude your neighbour has the right to build or to grow trees on their property even if doing so would restrict the sunlight or limit your view that is usually available to you. 

However, the limit to this right lies with the motive of the neighbour. 

So long as in doing said action is for the enjoyment of their property and not in hopes of causing a nuisance, then they are acting within the rights afforded them. 

If they are motivated by the latter, then you will be entitled to compensation for the suffering that is caused.

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