Nov 132012

How far from the boundary wall must I build?

OB siteplan s Boundary Lines,Walls & Fences


We get a number of questions on our sister site Building Regulations asking “How close to the boundary am I (or my neighbour) allowed to build?” The site plan above is a sample and is only a guide to the approximate building lines and distances that the Building Regulations allow a house as well as other out-buildings to be built. All the measurements on the plan are in metres and show the distance from a road at the bottom and at the top, from a public open space. You will also see that the side measurements that go on to the neighbours properties is less than that for the road and the open space.

We must point out that this is just a guide. All properties have their own characteristics and features and the distances may vary. You MUST check with your local authority even before you have plans drawn up to avoid having to re-draw and re-submit the plans again and incur extra delays and costs. There are roads, public open spaces and servitudes that all have their own unique set of requirements. If you want to build within the specified building lines you will have to apply for a waiver to the local planning department. They will, more than likely, require you to get your neighbours consent in writing before you can get approval .

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  161 Responses to “Boundary Lines,Walls & Fences”

Comments (161)
  1. Thank you for your reply Penny

  2. Can a neighbour demolish a cracked wall, build a new one and require half of what he claims the project cost without any proof (quotation, invoice, till slips etc.) whatsoever? We were not consulted in any decision making.

    • The short answer is NO! But there are several issues here. 1) If it is a party wall – i.e. owned by two parties – and the wall is damaged, then both parties are obliged to contribute to the maintenance and repair of the wall. However neither party is permitted to “tamper” with the wall in any way – except to improve the appearance of it on their side. So if it is a party wall, you would have had to agree in advance that the wall would be demolished and rebuilt – and then both pay 50%. 2) If the wall is on his/her side of the boundary, you have no liability at all. Even if it is ON the boundary, if the neighbour owns the wall, then I assume you would have to agree to contribute towards the new wall, because you would benefit. But I don’t think you would be obliged to. And certainly not without proof of all the costs incurred. And since you were not consulted at all, I know what I would say! 3) If you own the wall then your neighbour would not have the right to demolish it at all, without your consent. Your local authority should be able to advise who owns the wall.

  3. Hi,
    My property has a garage which is built on part of the side boundry of my property. I also have a cottage which is build on the back boundry of my property.
    Is it possible for me to extend the garage on the rest of the side boundry?

    • Colin, presumably the garage and cottage were built with plans and the approval of the local authority. Generally one also needs neighbours’ consent in writing. Unless you live in the “City of Cape Town” area which recently changed its zoning by-laws and now allows people to build on a boundary without neighbours’ consent (with certain limitations), you will need to ask your neighbours to agree to the extensions. You will also need to have plans drawn up by a competent person, and approved by your local authority. The limitations in terms of how much of the boundary you can build on will depend on your local by-laws. As an example, The City of Cape Town’s new zoning by-laws state that people living on plots from 200-650 sq m in size may build 3,5 m from the street boundary (except for a garage that may be up to 1,5 m from the street boundary if it is no wider than 6,5 m); then up to 12 m from the street boundary they may build on the common boundary (i.e. neighbour’s boundary) – obviously taking the 1,5 m or 3,5 m allowance into account; and then for 60% of the total remaining linear distance along all common boundaries around the land unit, and 3 m for the remainder.
      NB There are other things that come into account including no windows or doors to face the boundary and the height of the building that is allowed.
      You will need to find out what your local authority permits.

      • Hi Penny. If our neighbour builds on the boundry line as now allowed in Cape Town, can the wall to his house be on the line or must he allow for space for the house’s foundations? In other words, is he allowed to use my property for his foundations so long as the wall is on the boundry line? Thanks, Sean.

        • Hi Sean, This is a tricky one. I have just spoken to my Building Inspector contact who has this problem come up regularly. Until now they would take the wall as the part of the structure that had to be on the boundary line. But it seems as though these matters will have to be resolved in a civil court and the building inspectors will act as the go-between until the court has decided on each particular case. To date most cases have included the foundations as part of the structure, and even though the foundations are buried underground, the structure including foundations must be on the inside if the boundary. We always suggest that when there is a new wall between neighbours (yours is not just a wall) that an agreement in writing is made between them where they share the cost and the responsibility, and then lodge a certified copy with the local council. I will be getting more legal documents relating to this in the next few days, when I do I will post a new article.

  4. Hi, we’re looking to build onto our granny flat, but this is built against the boundary wall at the back of the house. We bought the house with the existing one bed flat. Now I understand there are laws against building on the boundary wall, am not too sure now how/if we can add onto this current building. Another problem, there is a man-hole next to the granny flat, not sure if this will also complicate the building plans?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Ntsiki the bylaws governing building-lines and boundaries are different in different areas, sometimes even within different areas within one city or town. For instance the City of Cape Town now allows people to build on the boundary with certain limitations in terms of extent, height etc, based on the size of the property. No neighbors consent is required, but plans must be submitted and approved by the local authority. This is very new and is governed by the City’s new zoning by-law that came into effect in March this year. I am not aware of any other local authorities that allow this; most insist on at least 2-3 m from the boundary. The boundary lines of your property should be marked on the plans and/or the surveyor general’s diagram (completed when the area was zoned for residential or other use). The zoning certificate will state what coverage is allowed – i.e. how much of the land you are allowed to build on.
      To add onto the granny flat, you will, in any case require plans. If the existing flat is not on the existing plans, you will need to sort this out first. The National Building Regulations & Standards Act now requires plans to be drawn by a competent person, and this person has the responsibility of submitting the plans to the local authority and ultimately making sure that the work is done according to the plans. If you don’t have plans, zoning certificate etc. a competent person will assist in getting these before the new plans are drafted.
      In terms of the man-hole, this might have to be moved – which has implications for the underground drains and pipework. A qualified registered plumber would have to do this job according to the plans drawn up by the competent person you use.

  5. Hi, I stay next to a company which used to be a hundred meters or so away from my house, they have since started expanding, i now have a 6m wall 25m from my house and a plant that will be erected behind this wall which will stand about 30m tall. This is a refinery, they are using hazardous chemical substances, furnaces and such, and there are audible evacuation alarms. They have also built a chopper pad which is behind my house, the border wall of the pad is 5m from my house, they currently have earth moving equipment an peckers working on the site!

    my question is, is this legal, as the erecting of the plant and the current activities surrounding the preparation of this plant is severely effecting the value of my property, what are the legal limits that such a plant can be erected from my residence and whom can i contact for legal advice and possible legal action, or don’t I have a foot to stand on as they claim that they are doing everything within the law!

    • Francois this sounds horrendous, but I think the crux of the matter is what the land is zoned for. This certainly would not be allowed i a residential area. But if your home is in an industrial area, I am not sure what you can do. You probably do need to get legal advice.

  6. Thanks you Janek. The servitude on my boundary was registered with the adjacent landowner’s consent to give access to home owners on a small new housing development, from a further landlocked site through to the nearest tarred road. It is not a servitude that specifies on the deed any particular or specific use. As it is on my boundary for more than 100m am I entitled to exit my property using the servitude without any necessary permission or red tape? The developer says I am not allowed to use it.

    • Hi Philip,
      It sounds to me from the info you have supplied that it is a “private treaty” entered into between your neighbour (the owner) and the developer. It is not public land that everyone has access to, so it seems as though the developer is correct. If you want access then make a request to them both for “permission” and see what they say.

  7. A neighbour has registered a Public Servitude which runs directly on the boundary line of my property.

    1. Should there not be space between the servitude and my property?
    2. How close can I build to the servitude?

    Many thanks for any info.

    • Hi Phillip,
      As your comment was posted on our Boundary Walls page I assume that you have looked at the example site plan. I must stress that all properties are different and often have their own limitations written into the title deed. The site plan is just a guide and as a rule of thumb you will see that the building line to the front boundary, onto the road is 5 metres; the side boundaries to the neighbors is 2.5 metres; and the back one, onto a public open space, the same as a servitude, is 3 metres. Servitudes can be anywhere on, under or through your property. If you want or need to build closer, then you will have to apply for a waiver from the council. They may also need a consent form signed by the neighbour/s. We bought a plot once to build on, only to find out later that there was a servitude registered against the property for a new road through the bottom half of the garden.

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