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Know your neighbour’s property

As a property owner, it is important to have a reasonable awareness of the condition of your property at all times. Being aware is essential to ensure that potentially damaging situations are dealt with and averted before an incidence of damage occurs. Insurers will often reject a claim if the incident of damage is found to be a foreseeable occurrence.

We also advise property owners to acquire a degree of knowledge and awareness of the condition of the neighbouring properties. There are a number of things that can cause damage to your property where the cause of the damage originates from a neighbouring property. Many of these are avoidable and some may not be covered in terms of your property insurance.


Trees located close to the boundary may present a danger of falling onto your property or tree roots growing under the boundary may damage buildings or other property. It is important for property owners to keep an eye on this to ensure trees are properly maintained by their neighbours so as to avoid damage being caused. While removal of trees in danger of falling may be covered, damage caused by tree roots is not.


Non-standard construction by a neighbour may result in an increased risk to your property. Where a neighbour erects a non-standard construction item such as a thatch lapa, careful consideration must be given to the proximity of this structure to your property. Specific rules apply to the location of a lapa in relation to other structures to avoid transfer of risk. If your unit is located downwind from the lapa, the risk of fire increases significantly. Who can forget the damage caused by the spread of fire at Cape St Francis in November 2012? That fire spread from property to property, rapidly destroying property to the value of millions of rands in only a few hours.

On occasion, existing properties are demolished to make way for bigger, better structures. If a neigbouring property is expanded from a one or two-storey house into a multi-storey building, it may present a number of potential problems through the various stages.

The most frequent cause for concern is undoubtedly where neighbouring properties are situated alongside each other but at different ground levels. Boundary walls can collapse onto neighbouring properties causing significant amounts of damage. It is important to be aware of what your neighbour is doing on the other side of the wall. A common occurrence is an overloaded boundary wall by unintentionally turning it into a retaining wall when it is not designed or built to fulfill this function. If your neighbour creates such a situation and then the wall collapses onto and damages your property, there is unlikely to be insurance cover for either of the properties. Reinstatement of your damaged property will be for your own account and recovery of these expenses may prove exceedingly difficult.

Responsible property owners care for and maintain their property in a manner befitting his investment. It is also wise to look beyond your own property alone to ensure protection of your investment.


Author:  Bruce Gibson, Addsure

Contact Addsure – The Leaders in Sectional Title Insurance – for fit and proper advice from advisors who understand Sectional Title. Contact us in Johannesburg (011) 704-3858; Durban (031) 459-1795; Cape Town (021) 551-5069