Duty of Support Between Neighbours and the Implications of being a “bad neighbour”

Noisy neighbours, encroaching trees, and leaves falling into your pool? These are all things which may lead to a dispute with a neighbour.
South African neighbour law places a duty of support on neighbours and serves the purpose of balancing the rights and duties between neighbours. Our common law provides that each person is entitled to the use and enjoyment of their land, on condition that it does not contravene any laws applicable to such land.
Section 36 of the Bill of Rights (the general limitations clause) in essence states that no right is absolute, and any right can be reasonably limited if need be.
There are various sources from which neighbour disputes may arise, one of the most common ones being noise complaints.
In terms of the National Noise Control Regulations, 1992, which form part of the Environmental Conservation Act, 73 of 1989 (“the Act”), a disturbing noise is one that can be scientifically measured and a noise nuisance can be defined as a noise which disturbs or may disturb, or impair or may impair the peace or convenience of any person.
The rules relating to the disturbing of noise in an urban environment are usually set our in the relevant municipal by-laws. The Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality’s Noise Control By-Law provides that making, producing, or causing a disturbing noise or allowing it to be caused is in contravention of the Act and one can possibly be fined.
As stated, noise nuisance is more of a subjective issue and in terms of the By-Law above, includes things such as allowing your dog to excessively bark, using or discharging an explosive or firearm and operating, playing or allowing to be operated a device producing, reproducing or amplifying sound so as to cause a noise nuisance.
Should you find yourself in a situation as such as a noise nuisance, you could, firstly, contact your local South African Police Service office to inspect the premises from which the noise is emanating from and to issue a warning to the culprits.
The legal route would be to lodge a complaint at your local authority. Furthermore, you can take the route of obtaining an interdict to prevent your neighbour from causing a specific noise. If your neighbour is uncooperative and there is excessive noise, the court will usually consider factors such as the type of noise, where the noise emanates from, how often it occurs, the time of day the noise occurs and whether or not efforts have been made to resolve the issue and to what extent such efforts have been made.
Author: Faren van Wyk