The legal requirements
There are currently no legal requirements, as contained in the National Building Regulations and Standards Act, 103 of 1973, (the Act) relating to an applicant informing or obtaining the consent of neighbours prior to commencing property renovations.
However, there might be such a requirement imposed by the by-laws or a policy of the local municipality under which the property falls. In addition, in cases where the property renovation application is processed simultaneously with an application for rezoning, relaxation of building line or the removal of a restrictive condition or covenant, the neighbours will be given notice of the application as required for these types of applications.
In terms of the Act, neighbours do not have a right to object to the application unless this is afforded to them through another law, or the relevant municipality has created an expectation that this will be the case in a particular situation, or a practice exists through which neighbours may object. This has been confirmed through the courts in Walele v City of Cape Town and Others.
An objection will not necessarily prevent the application from being approved. Rather, the municipality will still make the final decision, but is obliged to take into consideration these objections when making a decision. This includes taking into account the neighbours rights and how the proposed renovations may affect these.
It is precisely because of this requirement of considering the impact on neighbours, as set out in Section 7 of the Act, that there is no specific opportunity created for objections to be heard since these are most commonly accounted for by the full ambit of the municipality’s decision making process.
While an application for renovations is approved or denied by the municipality without any specific input from an owner’s neighbours, this doesn’t mean a neighbour’s perspective shouldn’t be considered when planning renovations.
Although far from a legal requirement, as with many things, it is often more beneficial to keep any affecting parties in the loop, to negotiate and to come to an agreement prior to forging ahead with any building. This can help avoid any delays with an application or disputes further down the line.
Written by Wessel de Kock