Can a neighbor object to my building plans?

Home improvement comes with some inherent challenges and pitfalls, especially if you run into trouble with your neighbors or the local council. Many people tend to overlook the need to submit building plans or to check legalities when they make alterations to, or renovate their homes. In this article we look at what the law says and how it affects the intended building plans.

What does the law say?

While there is no legal requirement in the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act (“NBA”) for an applicant to inform their neighbors of their application, there might be such a requirement in the by-laws of the local municipality according to Van Deventer and Van Deventer Incorporated.

However, if an application for the approval of building plans is made at the same time as an application for rezoning (zoning meaning municipal or local government laws that dictate how property can and cannot be used in certain areas) of the said property, the relaxing of building lines, or the removal of a restrictive condition or covenant, the neighbor must be notified.

Does my neighbors have the right to object to building plans?

In terms of the NBA, unless it states otherwise in another law, neighbors do not have the right to object to building plans. In certain cases, however, the municipality may invite neighbors to object to the building plans.

Can my neighbor’s objection hinder the approval of my building plans?

If an objection is submitted, it won’t necessarily prevent the building plans from being approved. Even though the municipality is bound to consider the objection, it will still make up its own mind about whether or not the plans should be approved. The municipality is obligated to consider the rights of the neighbors in terms of Section 7 of the NBA.

Therefore, if a neighbor hears about a pending application, and they are unhappy about it, they may submit an objection or comments to the local municipality. The municipality will then have to consider those submissions when making its decision.

What happens when a neighbor is unhappy about the building plans?

The only recourse that an aggrieved neighbor has is to apply for the court to review the decision to approve the plans, in terms of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act 3 of 2000 (“PAJA”).

If the neighbors can convince the court that there were procedural flaws in the approval process, or that the proposed plans will negatively affect the neighboring property, they will be successful in their application. If there is an objection or an application for review speak to your legal provider as quickly as you can about your options.


  • It is sound advice to establish the legal requirements upfront and to resolve any possible issues with your neighbors and the council, before construction starts. Otherwise, the process might be dragged out by an unhappy neighbor in any event.

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