The Great Boundary Wall Debate

written by Geraldine Southern – Senior Associate

While most of our property law practice involves disputes between landlords and tenants, property buyers and sellers and even municipalities and their constituents, every now and then we are instructed in a dispute between neighbours.

Hadar Inc was recently approached by a client who required his neighbour to remove a tree that had encroached onto his property and to repair the boundary wall damaged as a result. The dispute had brewed over a period of ten years and finally reached boiling point when our client decided to sell his property.

He had contacted the owner of the neighbouring property countless times to advise of the damage caused to his boundary wall. He even obtained numerous quotes from contractors to attend to the tree felling and wall repair, but his efforts fell on deaf ears. His neighbour consistently denied that there was any visible damage, until such time as the damage was distinct and severe.

By the time Hadar Inc was called in, a structural engineer was required to assess the extent of the damage and our client was left with no option but to seek relief through the courts, as a collapse of the boundary wall was imminent.

Despite further delay tactics employed by our client’s neighbour, once Hadar Inc stepped in with a swift application for interdictory relief, the Respondent made the wise decision to acquiesce. Hat in hand, he agreed to our terms in their entirety and was provided with strict timelines to implement the required repairs.

Ultimately, the dispute was settled by way of agreement and a lengthy and costly litigation exercise was avoided for all parties.

Many disputes can be easily resolved without litigation if the parties are reasonable, especially in circumstances where the nature of the relationship does not give rise to conflicting interests, as it can in contract. The need to litigate is often a consequence of apathy or procrastination, leading to unnecessary and avoidable expenses.

Hadar Inc will always adopt a position of trying to resolve issues out of court, aligning with our clients’ interests to save time and money. We aim to add value by solving legal challenges as quickly and efficiently as possible – ideally avoiding ten years of unnecessary distress and expense.

Turns out that what Robert Frost said is true: good fences do make good neighbours.