Swemmer & Levin

Vredenburg & Velddrif: 022 713 2221
Saldanha & Langebaan: 022 714 2244
Disputes between neighbours tend to ensue where an owner decides to build on or renovate their property and the neighbouring owner believes that such building works will have a detrimental effect on their property rights. Neighbours who are disgruntled by the noise nuisance, possible obstruction of an existing view from their property, or the aesthetic features of the building works, may feel it necessary to object to the building works.

The question that must accordingly be posed is, do neighbours have a legal right to object to building works? And if not, what other remedies are available?

The National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act (“NBA”) provides for the promotion of uniformity in the law relating to the erection of buildings in the areas of jurisdiction of local authorities. The NBA does not create a legal requirement for an owner to inform their neighbour(s) of a building plan application. In terms of the NBA, neighbours also do not have the right to object to building plans.

In Walele v City of Cape Town and Others, the Constitutional Court confirmed that neighbours do not have a general right to be informed of or have access to building plans or to object against them prior to approval. However, the Constitutional Court further held that the rights of neighbours are adequately protected by the duty placed upon the local authority to consider the rights of neighbouring landowners in term section 7 of the NBA.

It is important to note that there might exist a legal requirement for an owner to inform their neighbour(s) of a building plan application in terms of the by-laws of a specific local authority.

There are also certain exceptions to the general rule confirmed in the Walele case. Neighbours must be notified of building plans in the following instances:

  1. Where the application for the approval of building plans is made at the same time as an application for rezoning of the said property; or
  2. Where an application is made for the removal of a restrictive condition or covenant, for example, an application for the relaxation of a building line.


The local authority may also, in its discretion, invite neighbours to object to the building plans.

If an objection is submitted, it will not necessarily prevent the building plans from being approved. The local authority shall consider the objection and exercise its discretion whilst also considering the rights of the neighbours in terms of Section 7 of the NBA.

If the applying owner did not follow the correct procedural steps, aggrieved neighbours may have recourse in terms of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act 3 of 200 (“PAJA”). An aggrieved neighbour could potentially have the decision of the local authority to accept the building plans reviewed if such neighbour has a right or legitimate expectation that was detrimentally affected by the decision. A legitimate expectation could, however, according to established legal principles, only arise from express representations or practices.

An aggrieved neighbour would have to exhaust all available internal remedies, if available, before instituting review proceedings under PAJA.

Should you be aggrieved by a neighbour’s building plans or works, it is advisable to consult with the local authority and your attorney to discuss the reasons for your objections and the possibility of lodging an objection in the prescribed form.


  • Badenhorst PJ, Pienaar JM & Mostert H Silberberg and Schoeman’s The Law of Property 5 ed (2006) Durban: Butterworths.
  • The National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act.
  • Van der Walt AJ The Law of Neighbours 2010 Cape Town: Juta.
  • Walele v City of Cape Town and Others 2008 (6) SA 129 (CC).

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Jan Fourie

Director |  Attorney, Notary & Conveyancer | BA. LLB

Jan graduated in 1974 with a five-year BA LLB degree from the University of Stellenbosch, whereafter he was admitted as an advocate and prosecuted as such in the Cape Town and Wynberg Courts. In 1974, he joined Swemmer & Levin as the Candidate Attorney of Mr Levin (founding member) and was admitted as an attorney on 7 April 1976, as a conveyancer on 11 January 1978, and as a Notary on 19 December 1984. Since 1974, he has served in various committees, including the West Coast Chamber of Commerce, the Vredenburg School Committee, and the Malgas Lions Club. 

Furthermore, Jan was the author of the first bilingual law book, The New Debt Collecting Procedures (Die Nuwe Skuldinvorderingsprosedures), which was used by all the Magistrate Courts throughout South Africa. With the founding of the Small Claims Court in Vredenburg, Jan served as one of the first Commissioners. He is currently based at Swemmer & Levin’s Vredenburg office and has been with our firm for more than 47 years.

Pieter Smit

Director | Attorney & Conveyancer | BA. LLB

Pieter obtained his BA Law degree from Stellenbosch University in 1995 and his LLB degree from the North-West University in Potchefstroom in 1998. He served his articles at Marais Muller Attorneys from 1998 to 1999 and was admitted as an attorney in 2000 and as a conveyancer in 2002. Pieter is the founder of PP Smit Attorneys, which opened its doors in 2004. He also became a director of Swemmer & Levin in 2006. Pieter loves the outdoors and participating in all forms of sport, including tennis, golf, fishing, spearfishing, scuba diving, and hiking. 

Johann Maree

Director | Attorney | BA. LLB

Johann matriculated at Oudtshoorn High School and attended Stellenbosch University, where he obtained his BA Law and LLB degrees. Following his studies, he worked for three years as State Prosecutor at the Magistrate’s Court in Cape Town. Johann completed his legal training with the State Attorney in Pretoria and then moved to his hometown, Oudtshoorn, where he worked as a lawyer for a year. In 1983, he finally moved to Vredenburg and joined Swemmer & Levin, where he is still practising as a director. When he is not in the office, Johann enjoys cycling and in his earlier days, he used to be a long-distance junkie.

Richard Phillips

Director | Attorney | Bcom & BProc

After matriculating at Paarl Boys’ High School, Richard completed his BCom and BProc degrees at the University of Port Elizabeth. He served his articles with Van Wyk Fouchee in Paarl and quickly developed an affinity for litigation. Richard has always had a deep love for the ocean and when he was presented with an opportunity to join Swemmer & Levin on the West Coast, he agreed without hesitation and has been with our firm since 1997. Richard specialises in general litigation and divorces. When he is not in the office or with his family, he tries to spend as much time as possible in or on the water.

Jandré Smith

Director | Attorney | LLB

Jandré grew up and matriculated in the small Klein Karoo town of Oudtshoorn. He furthered his studies at the North-West University in Potchefstroom, obtaining his LLB degree during 2015. He completed his articles at Swemmer & Levin in 2017 and was subsequently appointed as a professional assistant. In 2020, Jandré was promoted to the position of director at the firm, where he practises in the Litigation department at our Langebaan office. When not practising law, Jandré is an avid sports fan. He has a passion for nature and enjoys camping, trail running, and mountain biking with his family.

Andre van der Walt

Director | Attorney | LLB

Andre graduated in 2015 with an LLB degree from the University of Pretoria. He later went on to obtain his NQF 7 Certificate in the Administration of Deceased Estates from the University of South Africa, which allowed him to further his career in deceased estates and the drafting of wills and trusts. Andre served his articles at Barnard & Patel Attorneys under the supervision of Mr YAS Patel. After being admitted as an attorney in 2016, he continued working at Barnard & Patel Attorneys as a professional assistant in the deceased estates department.

Andre joined Van Rensburg Attorneys in 2019 and was head of the deceased estates department until 2021. He then received the opportunity to move to the West Coast, where he joined Swemmer & Levin Attorneys. Andre loves travelling and enjoys the beauty that our country has to offer with his friends, family, and loved ones.

Harmann Potgieter

Attorney | LLB

Harmann graduated in 2018 with an LLB degree from the North-West University’s Potchefstroom Campus. He went on to study and grow in various fields, including doing a course on the Consumer Protection Act and a course at the University of South Africa where he obtained his NQF 7 Certificate in the Administration of Deceased Estates.

Harmann completed his articles of clerkship at Swemmer & Levin under the supervision of Mr Richard Phillips. After being admitted as an attorney in 2020, Harmann continued with Swemmer & Levin as a professional assistant in the deceased estates department as well as the litigation department. He loves to study, possesses a deep curiosity about the world, and is dedicated to giving back to the community.

Carla Cloete

Attorney, Conveyancer & Notary | LLB

Carla obtained her LLB at the North West University, Potchefstroom Campus in 2015. She completed her articles in 2017 with Brits Dreyer Inc in Bellville. She is an admitted Attorney, Notary and Conveyancer. After her articles she relocated to Kimberley where she worked as a professional assistant in the Conveyancing department of Van de Wall Inc. Coming back to her Western Cape roots, she now joins the Swemmer & Levin team as a professional assistant.