Saturday, April 20

Q&A with Handy Mac: Neighbour’s garage and an expensive mistake

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A reader has a problem with a neighbour’s building work and Ann needs to get out of a tricky situation.

A reader has a problem with a neighbour’s building work.

Q: Please have a look at the attached picture where a neighbour of mine has literally built their garage against my gutters and right on top of our electric fencing. Is this allowed and if not, who do we contact to have this matter addressed? It is seriously hindering the sale of my property, and surely cannot be allowed. If we have the need to effect any maintenance to our gutter, we would not even be able to get to it, and furthermore I cannot see how they are going to manage to plaster the wall, never mind the security breach regarding the electric fencing. Hope you can assist with some advice.

A: I am always amazed how many homeowners do things without consulting their neighbours, and how much building is still done without approved plans.

Contact your local building inspector as soon as possible.

For your area, call 0214440561 or see I suggest you keep notes of all your calls and confirm everything by e-mail.

Looking at the photos, it is also going to be necessary to check your house is built in the correct place. Your gutter is not allowed to project over your building line. In most municipalities, garages can be built right onto the boundary, if plans are approved.

I hope you have the approved plans for your property for inclusion in the deed of sale.

No contractor in his right mind is going to be compromised by building where he knows he is going to be challenged.

Ann needs to get out of a tricky situation.

Q: I have made an expensive mistake and would like to weigh up my options.

With the drought, everyone around me has installed rainwater tanks. I thought it was a sensible idea and decided I would use it for the toilets. I visited a neighbour, who showed me his tank, and then obtained quotes from two contractors used in my complex.

I think it went wrong because I didn’t ask the right questions, and the contractor did not make suggestions.

The tank was installed a month ago and is now full and overflowing. 

The overflow pipe was installed in the opposite direction to my request. The contractor said he couldn’t do as I asked, but the supervisor in our complex said he can’t understand why. The drain pipe in this area is small and has already flooded.

I envisaged throwing buckets of water into the toilet bowls, as I had been doing with grey water. I have subsequently learnt one can install a pump which takes water from the tank into another area of the house, but this apparently cannot be done with Geberit toilets, which I have.  

I now sit with a full 2200 litre tank at the beginning of the rainy season, and don’t know what to do with all the water, other than the daily bucket for the toilet. I can’t use it on my garden because the ground is wet.

I might have to cut my losses and remove the installation.

A: The best answer is to keep the tank, connect a fixed overflow pipe to the top overflow and run it into the garden, and keep using the balance for your toilet. If you have a top loading washing machine you could also carry buckets in for that.

If you are willing to spend another R7000+ you could install a pump and connect it into an independent supply to your toilet cistern and washing machine, but this will only work as long as it rains and until the tank runs dry. Then you have the problem of switching back again.

You could collect buckets of water to wash dishes. Buy a second kettle to heat the water to wash dishes and do hand laundry.

*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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