Are you one of those lucky people with a vacant block next door? Do you live next to a paddock with a few grazing sheep, waking up to sounds of birds chirping or an extended view across the way? Ah the serenity!
THAT IS UNTIL……. The dreadful day when the earthmovers roll in, followed by the tradies and their hammers! What if the noise, traffic, vibrations, dust, litter, and mud starts to become too much?? All of a sudden your daily serenity could turn into your daily nightmare!!
This is a ‘worst-case’ scenario, and development doesn’t always get out of hand, but let’s face it – while there is development going on, you’re sure to experience some degree of disturbance for a while!
So, who do you turn to? What do you do if you just can’t take it anymore?
The obligation to ‘keep the peace’ lies firstly with the land owner/ developer. They are primarily responsible for any impact their development has on you and the enjoyment of your property BUT, before you go in with all guns blazing, remember that those involved may end up being your neighbours for many years to come!
Your local council approves all kinds of developments each day (new homes, verandas / garages / carports/extensions to existing homes, and commercial developments). Did you know you can visit your local council and ask to view development applications on adjoining properties, even BEFORE works commence?
But if your local council cannot assist, here is a list of who can – depending on the problem:
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) play a major role in managing noise concerns. Under the Environmental Protection (Noise) Policy 2007, construction is only allowed between the hours of 7am and 7pm Monday to Saturday. You can reach them on (08) 8204 2004 or refer to their website to see the policy EPA Noise Policy.
Land owners have a responsibility to keep dust to a minimum during development. Soil should be kept wet during times of excavation and demolition, but this doesn’t always happen. To work out what is acceptable or whether there has been a breach of the Environmental Protection (Air Quality) Policy 1994, you can contact the EPA on 8204 2004 or refer to their website EPA Air Quality Policy.
Excavation can not only be noisy and cause vibrations, but if it’s close to your boundary it may cause instability or damage to your property. The land owner/developer is obliged to take all precautions necessary to ensure your property is protected, and must serve notice 28 days prior to any works commencing, in accordance with the Development Act s60 (SA Development Act). If you require the developer to undertake any additional works to protect your property, you must respond to this notice in writing.
Once they receive your response, the landowner/developer must submit a separate Building Application to Council, with regards to the work required on your property, which must be approved before works start!
Fences and Retaining Walls
Before works commence on installing, removing or replacing a boundary fence or wall, neighbours should get in contact to see if they can reach an agreement (e.g. going halves in the cost of a new fence). It is recommended that this agreement be in writing.
If agreement cannot be reached, the landowner/developer is required to give 30 days written notice to any adjoining neighbour. You can get a copy of ‘Fences and the Law’ handbook from your local council which outlines the notice procedure (Fences and the Law). Where a dispute arises, you can also call the Legal Services Commission on 1300 366 424 to discuss.
Does your (or your neighbour’s) property have a fence, building or structure that crosses the boundary? A staggering number of encroachments exist in South Australia, with many land owners completely unaware they exist! Perhaps the property was subdivided a long time ago, maybe survey pegs were moved or fences were erected in the wrong spot? These types of encroachments can result in costly neighbourly disputes!
Encroachment is a civil matter, and should be negotiated between the parties involved. Your conveyancer, together with a surveyor, can assist with moving boundaries – if agreed. And if you can’t agree, then you will need to consult a solicitor. The South Australian Civil Court has the power to order removal of fences and buildings or make orders of compensation (Encroachments Act 1944). Check out our previous blog on fences here.
Damage to your property
Has your property been damaged? Are you concerned that it will be damaged? If yes, you should contact the owner /developer to resolve the issue. If you are not satisfied with the outcome, then you will need to consult a solicitor for advice.
Your local council is the point of contact if you have concerns with the relocation or creation of your neighbour’s driveway as a council permit is required.
If the neighbouring development causes damage to the infrastructure or vegetation on the council verge, the land owner / developer is required to make good the damage caused. Should you witness damage taking place, your council will want to hear from you.
Most developments are straight forward, with issues resolved by respectful communication between both parties. So before you start a neighbourhood petition or make an angry phone call – remember to talk to each other. After all, they could end up being your next-door-neighbours for many years to come!
Written by Emma Nankivell – August 2017