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Q&A with Handy Mac: Boundary issue

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Angela has a common problem

Q: When the neighbours’ outbuilding forms the boundary between their property and mine, who is responsible for repairing cracked plasterwork or any damp issues on their side inside their building? The original erf was subdivided and the outbuilding is very old. The area is Chelsea in Wynberg.

My house is facebrick and was built in the late 1980s. The plastered wall had ivy growing all over it and I removed it after I took transfer of the property in April. The ageing plasterwork on the Victorian outhouse was then revealed.

A: This is a problem that needs to be approached from many angles and I have forwarded the question to an architect, a lawyer and a building inspector in an attempt to get a balanced view.

So far, Nic Louw, my friendly architect who often supplies advice, has commented.

“I think we agree these matters are best handled amicably, without resorting to arguments, lawyer’s letters or litigation involving the courts, which will probably cost more than solving the problem.

“At the end of the day, I am sure Angela would like a nice wall to look at and that the neighbour does not want damp.”

Until I have legal comment, I don’t want to say too much but Nic points out it is important to find out who the wall belongs to. This will be the first cost incurred, as a land surveyor will need to come and check the boundary pegs and line.

The second stage is to establish the cause of the damp on the neighbour’s side. It may well be old damp that was there long before the removal of the ivy. It could well be rising damp and I must say the photo does show signs of long-term deterioration. It is also important to establish if the wall is weather facing, as the state of the wall at present will allow the ingress of water, which will not do an old wall any good.

I don’t know how far this has developed with the neighbour but it might be a good idea to appoint an independent person who can look at both sides of the “wall” and sit down with you to look for a mutually acceptable and cost-sharing remedy.

Handy Mac, aka Don MacAlister, is our expert on household DIY issues. If you have a question for him, please send it to or SMS only to 082 446 3859. Find Don on FB:

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