Disruptive neighbours

2018-07-09 10:41
How to deal with the challenge of disruptive neighbours.

How to deal with the challenge of disruptive neighbours. (File)

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There are nosy ones. Noisy ones whose techno tunes constantly blare from their sound systems. Messy ones who leave refuse bags in front of your gate, even ones with terrifying Rottweilers who bark incessantly. The list goes on.

What should you do if you find yourself in a situation where the Dlaminis are the pits?

Chief executive officer and regional director of RE/MAX Southern Africa Adrian Goslett advised that, although your initial response may be to call the police, this is not always the best way to manage disruptions with your neighbours.

“Resolving neighbour disputes can be a lengthy and time-consuming process if you have to take it up with authorities so you want to try your best to resolve it without getting others involved, if possible,” said Goslett.

According to his advice, the first step in any dispute between neighbours is to take a human approach to the situation by trying to resolve the issue neighbour-to-neighbour.

“In many cases, the issue can be easily resolved if both neighbours just have an honest and respectful conversation about the issue — the operative word here being respectful,” he said.

He warned that it was never a good idea to confront a neighbour while you are still angry.

“So many disputes continue for longer than necessary simply because a neighbour has allowed their frustration to seep into the interaction, which only further fuelled the offending neighbour to continue their bad behaviour out of spite,” said Goslett.

Japie Kruger, an associate at Phatshoane Henney Attorneys, warned that, when dealing with noise nuisance, you should not take the law into your own hands.

“Keep in mind that, should you decide to approach a court of law, it must be done with so called ‘clean hands’ in order to be successful. That is why you have to refrain from any actions that might be used against you,” said Kruger.

Commenting on The Witness Facebook page, Rikesh Ishwarlall said his neighbours burn rubbish in their yard, especially when there is washing on the line.

“I don’t understand why they can’t take out their refuse like everyone else. Unfortunately, common sense is not as common as one may think,” he said.

Another local, Michele Greatwood, said her issue was with neighbours who can’t be bothered to keep their gardens and verges neat.

Sue Green said: “I have a neighbour who thinks that he can erect a two storey building over the building line without planning permission — cutting off sunshine and completely eroding our privacy. We have been to the municipality and have had no joy.”

Rashika Goorcharran said he had a problem with the neighbour’s dogs barking incessantly.

“I sent him [neighbour] a decent message to move the dogs to another place because they are kept about two metres from our bedrooms.

“The entire family stopped talking to us after that message and the dogs were never moved.”

Goorcharran said, after his landlady laid a complaint with the municipality, the neighbour was instructed to move the dogs.

In 2016, Msunduzi Municipality took a Blackridge resident to court for allegedly failing to comply with a notice served to him about his noisy generator.

According to neighbours, the man’s generator had been running “at all hours” since December 2015.

The city’s by-laws state that, “noise nuisance means any sound which disturbs or impairs or may disturb or impair the convenience or peace of any person”.

A disturbing noise means a noise level which exceeds the zone sound level and, if no zone sound level has been designated, seven decibels is the maximum accepted level of sound.

In the Bisley area, fed-up homeowners Sabelo and Sibongile Zitha took their neighbour Siphesihle Ngobese to the Pietermaritzburg high court in a bid to stop noisy parties at his house.

The Zitha’s told the court at the time that they had tried everything to resolve the matter amicably however all their attempts had failed.

Msunduzi municipality spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said that generally, on receipt of complaints of this nature, an environmental health practitioner would investigate the complaint and serve a compliance notice of the alleged noise nuisance on the party concerned.

“On non-compliance of the notice, the report and affidavits received will then be forwarded to the municipality’s legal unit for consideration of further legal proceedings,” Mafumbatha said.

Mafumbatha also added that, while affidavit statements are required from complainants, noise readings will be taken to establish how much the noise has exceeded the accepted level of sound.

Currently, fines issued are for amounts of R 1 500 or R 2 500, or both, depending on the legislation used.

Nontuthuko Mdunge said her neighbours had three tiny dogs who are let out every morning at about 6 am and then “they start barking and whimpering to no end”.

“I only start work at about 10 am, but these dogs wake me at around 6 am all the time. One morning I went over there and threatened to seriously harm their dogs,” she told Weekend Witness.

Pietermaritzburg SPCA senior inspector Alec Wylie said the correct protocol to follow for stray animals is to phone the local pound master.

“No person except for an officer of the law may destroy an animal. If you see an animal strolling around and not causing problems, call the pound master,” he said.

He said matters relating to “nuisance behaviour” fall under local by-laws.

“This includes causing a disturbance by howling, barking or whining as well as dogs (and increasingly, cats) wandering off or being allowed to stray beyond their own properties.

“Generally speaking, by-laws are enforced by municipalities or duly appointed sub-contractors,” he said.

The general by-laws also state: “No person shall turn loose or allow to wander in any street or public place, any horse, cattle, donkey, pig, sheep, pig, goat, and any such animal so found, may be impounded.”

Jason Smith from Eastwood complained about his neighbours who often had wild parties and played loud music until the early hours of the morning. But he admitted that when he asked his neighbours to keep it down, they generally obliged.

Nomthandazo Sithole said her neighbours’ hymns were really disturbing: “I am not religious and she keeps playing gospel music early in the morning and late at night. I have spoken to her several times but she refuses to stop.”

Mafumbatha said the noise and nuisance by-laws state that if someone’s music could be heard outside the boundaries of their premises, they were contravening the law.

“If notified of a complaint, law enforcement officials will investigate and see how serious the situation is.

“If necessary, they instruct people to turn down their music and, if the offenders do not comply, they can be fined. In extreme cases, their equipment will be confiscated,” she added.

Sharlin Moodley said her neighbour hates pets.

“He puts threatening letters in our postboxes that say: ‘if your dog comes out of your yard and into mine I will kill it’. A couple of us have had our dogs poisoned or their throats slit but we have no solid evidence. He is a cruel man.”

Other ‘Maritzburger’s complained that their neighbours spied on them or dumped rubble in front in their driveways.

Trees which overlapped from one neighbour’s yard to the next, leaving a leafy mess, were also a popular complaint from those interviewed.

But Mafumbatha said these situations were not covered by the by-laws as they were civil matters which had to be settled between the respective parties.

Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese said the public was welcome to report any noise disturbances to the police after 10 pm.

Ngobese said if noise makers did not comply with the by-laws they could be charged for disturbance.

“With regards to dogs, we do the same, failing which we inform the SPCA to deal with the matter,” said Ngobese.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  neighbours

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