The Property Poser panel is often asked to deal with the sensitive issue of boundary walls between neighbours.
This week one of our readers shares her distress over the state of the vibacrete wall that divides her property from her neighbours’.
Some of the panels are broken or missing but the neighbours are not in a financial position to make any kind of repairs to the wall.
The reader is concerned that if she builds a new wall, the neighbours will simply break down the existing one and benefit from its replacement.
She is also not keen to build the wall on her property only, feeling that the neighbours will gain an unfair advantage from this in that their garden area will be increased by the boundary shift.
Lucille Geldenhuys from Lucille Geldenhuys Attorneys in Stellenbosch says the reader has touched on a critical aspect relating to boundary walls. “It is very important to determine on whose property the wall is situated.”
If the boundary markers are not visible, a surveyor may be called in to determine on whose property the wall lies, says Geldenhuys.
“If a wall is situated on only one of the properties, it will be that owner’s full responsibility to maintain and repair it.”
It is equally possible, Geldenhuys says, that the wall may straddle both properties.
“Should the wall be jointly owned by both neighbours, this would mean that each would be obliged to contribute to the maintenance and repairs.”
Geldenhuys says an owner can, however, refuse to contribute to the cost of an unreasonably expensive new wall.
This means that the reader may not necessarily insist that a brick wall be erected in place of the existing vibracrete one or hold her neighbours accountable for half the cost, says Schalk van der Merwe from Rawson Properties Helderberg.
“Generally, as each owner benefits from the existence of a boundary wall, it has become commonplace for neighbours to take care of the side facing their property.”
Van der Merwe says such care usually amounts to minor repairs and possibly the painting of the wall from time to time.
“A more cost-effective option in this instance may therefore be to look at repairing the existing wall and replacing the missing panels, even if the defaulting neighbour is not in a position to contribute.”
This offers a middle-ground solution as the reader will most definitely benefit from the newly mended wall, says Van der Merwe.
“This also removes the expense of a new wall and the associated loss of garden area.”
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