Know your rights when neighbours start renovating



11-01-2019
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The South African
Source

Chances are you might end up living next to a construction site at least once in your life. But what can you do about the noise and the mess?

You have been living in peace in your neighbourhood for some time now, but it seems as if some new developments are taking place next door.

It’s about to get noisy and dirty. So, what are your rights?

Should you choose to ignore the dust cloud of ongoing construction for the next few months (or years) or can you put a stop to it all together?

Each property and municipal area carries a zoning.

This is the process of dividing land in a municipality into zones, whether it be industrial or residential.

This permits or prohibits certain land uses. The type of zone determines whether planning permission for a given development is granted. Zoning may specify a variety of outright and conditional uses of land.

Municipal areas also have specific by-laws which deal with developments setting up in communities. It then starts with the existing zoning of the area.

Each property is zoned in terms of its use and specific density and FAR (floor area ratio) which is already approved in terms of their existing zoning.

If the property is already zoned in such a way that the developer is permitted to build five more storeys and on 95% of the land surface, they will not be obliged to give any notice to homeowners.

Your rights when it comes to development and construction If you feel that the development and construction is infringing on your rights as a resident you can make sure that the developers and yourself are well within each other’s rights to do what you need to do for your sanity.

You must also recognise that your rights are somewhat limited because developers are entitled to build on their property.

Here are a few things you and the developer should know regarding construction:

Rezoning applications are usually considered by the city council in terms of their own long-term plans for the specific area. If, for example, the area was identified for light industrial development, a developer is more likely to be granted a rezoning permission for light industrial development, but not necessarily for residential development, and vice versa. The developer may need to inform their immediate neighbours by registered post, but this depends on the council’s rules. This would be to provide an opportunity for objections within a certain period, whereafter the municipality considers objections and decides whether there are grounds for rejecting the developer’s rezoning application. As a homeowner, you are entitled to take legal action by approaching the court for an interdict to stop the construction until a ruling has been made. You can also approach the court for an order to object to the specific zoning. You will however, need to prove why the proposed development will be a disadvantage to you and the community in which you live. Nobody may develop outside of the restrictions and conditions set out by local zoning criteria. If the developer is building within their rights, disgruntled homeowners can only object, and with valid reasons. You should do this through the official objection channels with your municipality in an attempt to prevent the development from going ahead. What a development could mean for your property? Once a new development goes up next door many residents might contemplate whether they want to stay in the area. While living with the construction noise and mess can be an irritation, homeowners need to consider the financial implications that the new development could have on their home. If your property is situated right next to a construction zone, it could impact on the price of your property negatively or positively.

If the completed project results in a popular, high-end new development that has reached capacity, it can significantly raise the prices of homes nearby. If homeowners decide to sell, then it will provide them with a great return on their investment.

New developments often add value to an area, especially if the finished product is modern and sets a new standard for the suburb.

How to live next to a construction site and stay calm If you choose to stay in your property despite the construction, it would be important to be able to stay calm throughout the process.

Here are some tips to help you keep calm over months of construction:

Talk to the owners of the project First, it is important for you as the resident to have information about what is happening next door so that you know what to expect. If that does not happen, you can contact the owner yourself. You can usually find their information on the notice board on the property.

Be involved from the outset Plans for major renovations are typically presented at community board meetings, giving neighbours an opportunity to weigh in with concerns, or at least to find out more about the project.

Address problems early Report any problems that arise as soon as possible. This could include unsafe working conditions, precarious scaffolding or improper disposal of construction materials. Your complaint may result in an investigation by a building inspector, a stop-work order or fines.

If your property is near vacant land, development is inevitable. If you want to avoid this, try and purchase in fully-developed, modern neighbourhoods that are unlikely to attract developers in the foreseeable future. If you choose to lodge a complaint though, the chances of success increase when more people from the community lodge objections, but there are still no guarantees.

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