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Is it legal that my neighbour’s renovations reduce or even obliterate my view?

by Michelle Fiorentinos

You’ve just taken transfer of your dream home. It’s single storey, north facing so it gets the sunshine and has breath taking views.

One day you notice that your neighbour is renovating. This doesn’t concern you as it will add value to your property. However, you soon realise that they are not only building outwards, but also upwards.

They are adding not one, but two stories to their home. Your beautiful view is now that of a brick wall and your warm afternoon sunshine has vanished only to be replaced by darkness and cold all year round. The only thought going through your head is, “surely this can’t be legal!”

Unfortunately, in most cases it’s completely legal! Although many houses are initially small and appropriately sized for their plots, on further investigation it will most likely be found that there was a right to extend upwards and sideways from the time the plans were first approved.

What does this mean for you the purchaser? Essentially, before signing on the dotted line of the Sale Agreement, it is advisable that you do a bit of research of your own by checking the zoning rules that apply to the street of your dream home.

Then you will be in a better position to decide how important those views are to you and if you are prepared to take the risk of perhaps losing them at a later stage. It does also mean, however, that just as your neighbour can build upward and outward, so can you!

However, when you, or your neighbour, decide to extend your dream home, the law requires that building plans to be submitted and approved by the municipality. The development and use of land and buildings are generally controlled by various laws and regulations. In addition, the land owner must comply with the provisions of the zoning scheme, which sets out rights and restrictions in respect of a specific land unit.

The Title Deed of the property may also contain such restrictions as to land use.

Unfortunately, landowners often contravene these controls and regulations and on occasion build without having even submitted and/or received approval of their building plans. In such a case, on receipt of a complaint, the municipality will investigate and take appropriate action.

An interesting example is the case of a beachfront home built at Kenton-on-Sea, Eastern Cape, without the necessary building approval. The neighbour whose sweeping, panoramic views of the ocean were obstructed by the renovation lodged a complaint with the local municipality. Upon investigation by the municipality and after an extended court case that reached as far as the Supreme Court of Appeal, it was ordered that the R8m home be demolished!

Should you be in a similar position of either purchasing property, wanting to renovate, or your neighbour is renovating and affecting your views, please contact us to assist you in investigating the regulations and zoning of your area as well as doing a thorough Deeds Office search as to possible Title Deed restrictions and your possible courses of action.

9 July, 2014

**Please note that these comments are summarised, may not be applicable to your particular situation and do not constitute legal advice. Please consult your legal professional should you wish to obtain a formal legal opinion.**