Love thy neighbour

2012-09-29 10:34

Sometimes this simple idea can seem impossible. Take steps to ensure your relationship is a good one.

When you get on with your neighbours, there’s nothing to beat suburban living: it not only offers the convenience and sociability of a ready-made community, there’s also added security in numbers.

But the flip side of the coin – neighbourhood feuds – can cause untold stress and misery.

It’s often additional racket that ratchets up the irritation levels: barking dogs, screaming children, late-night parties and power tools used by keen after-hours DIYers can turn a normally affable neighbour into a monster.

In suburbs where off-street parking is at a premium, a neighbour hogging ‘your’ piece of pavement may begin as an inconvenience and escalate into a full-scale street war.

Nobody likes coming out in the morning to find their street strewn with rubbish because their neighbour put out their garbage bags the night before and they were torn open by scavenging dogs.

And what about your neighbour’s tree that hangs over the fence and drops fruit and leaves into your yard?

The temptation to sneak next door and cut it down in the middle of the night may become overwhelming.

Before you resort to guerrilla tactics, however, take some neighbourly steps to solve the problem.

Be proactive
Don’t wait until you feel as if your head is going to explode before tackling the issue.

Phoning your neighbour at three in the morning to complain about their barking dog is almost certain to result in an argument.

Rather, choose a time when both you and your neighbour are relaxed and unstressed, such as a weekend, and have a friendly, face-to-face conversation about the issue.

Contact your municipality

All municipalities have a range of bylaws dealing with pets, noise, garbage disposal, traffic and other aspects of suburban living.

Request a copy of the bylaws so you know what your rights are.

Contact the police

Most big cities have a metropolitan police division that deals with traffic, crime prevention and the policing of municipal bylaws.

If all else fails, ask them to step in.

In most cases, they’ll first issue a warning, then take legal steps.

Be considerate

Take note when your own dogs bark, secure your garbage in a wheelie bin, keep your garden neat (but don’t mow your lawn early on a weekend morning), inform your neighbours if you’re going to have a party and turn down the music at a reasonable hour.

Hold a block party

Organise a casual get-together for your closest neighbours.

You may discover that the guy who seems to be stuck-up is actually just shy, or the noisy teen is the daughter of a single mom who’s holding down two jobs and doesn’t know what her kid is getting up to in the  afternoons.

Top 3 deal-breakers

1. Yapping dogs
Barking dogs are one of the major causes of neighbourhood discord.

Municipalities have different bylaws concerning the keeping of pets, including how many each household may own, and all make at least some mention of noisy dogs.

The City of Cape Town’s bylaw states that dog owners many not ‘keep any dog which barks for more than six minutes in any hour or more than three minutes in any half hour’, while the City of Johannesburg bylaws state that ‘no person may keep a dog which barks, whimpers or howls to such an extent that it causes a disturbance or nuisance to inhabitants of the neighbourhood’.

2. Pavement wars
The municipality owns all land beyond the boundary of your property, including the pavement – and under South African traffic law, parking on the pavement is illegal.

This means that not only are you not automatically entitled to park directly outside your own house, you – and your neighbours – are not allowed to park on the pavement at all.

3. Tree trials

The planting of trees is held to be a ‘natural and ordinary use of land’, however close to a boundary they may be.

You may ask your neighbour to saw off overhanging branches, or saw them off yourself.

Usually you can’t complain if leaves, branches or flowers from a neighbour’s tree fall onto your property, and you can’t force your neighbour to remove them.

You can, however, demand the removal of roots that encroach on your property or you may remove them yourself.

(The handling of trees and roots is a fairly complicated area, so for more information, contact
your municipality.)


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