How far from the boundary wall must I build?



We get a number of questions asking “How close to the boundary am I (or my neighbour) allowed to build?” The site plan above is a sample and is only a guide to the approximate building lines and distances that the Building Regulations allow a house as well as other out-buildings to be built. All the measurements on the plan are in metres and show the distance from a road at the bottom and at the top, from a public open space. You will also see that the side measurements that go on to the neighbours properties is less than that for the road and the open space.

We must point out that this is just a guide. All properties have their own characteristics and features and the boundary distances may vary. You MUST check with your local authority even before you have plans drawn up to avoid having to re-draw and re-submit the plans again and incur extra delays and costs. There are roads, public open spaces and servitudes that all have their own unique set of boundary requirements. If you want to build within the specified building lines you will have to apply for a waiver to the local planning department. They will, more than likely, require you to get your neighbours consent in writing before you can get approval .

  353 Responses to “Boundary Lines,Walls & Fences”

Comments (353)
  1. Hi, please assist. We live in a full title estate and would like to build a concrete boundary wall that is 1.8 m high and within the required meters away from the communal road within the estate.
    We have obtained permission from the Homeowners association and would just like to confirm we need to submit any plans and require authorisation from our local council? please advise.

  2. I would like to enquire on the buidling requlation for the following;

    Our Property is about 230sqm which is fairly small, we would like to extend to a double storey, are there are any restrictions for building from the boundary wall eg, the back boundary wall.

    Thank you

    • Hi Mrs P,
      All properties have building line limitations and they vary with the zone or area your house is in. With smaller properties the inspectors are a bit more flexible with the regulations but you will have to get the consent of your neighbours in writing and submit these with your plans. A word of caution when adding a second storey on to an existing single storey house. The foundations are designed for a single storey only and might not hold the weight of a second storey. You should get a “competent person” to advise you.

  3. Dear Penny

    I have a question with regards to foreign embassies and building regulations.
    If an embassy of another country wants to build on their premises do they have to strictly abide by the bylaws? More specifically in the Brooklyn, Pretoria area. It has to do with a neighbour who is telling the embassy that there needs to be a space of 3m between the parking garage they want to build and the boundary wall. Is this correct?

    • Hi Keshia,
      As far as I am aware Diplomatic Immunity does not allow Foreign Embassies to disregard the laws of the country where they have their embassies located. If the Pretoria by-laws and zoning requirements say that the building line is 3 meters then they cannot build outside that line. They would have to get permission from council as well as neighbours consent.

  4. Hi there
    Our neighbor has made a make shift shed, of around 6m x 3m joined to his house and connected to the precast wall that separates our properties. It has big corrugated sheets, for the roof, which are angled in such a way that at certain times of the day, the reflection into our house is blinding.

    The job was done by himself and a worker and is finished off in the most untidy and unsightly way. That way is above the precast wall and all the nasty looking finishing faces our side.

    Is this legal and do I have to accept this?

    I am in Johannesburg. Roodepoort area and would like to know if anything can be done about this.

    • Carol you can complain to the local authority – the City of Johannesburg. First of all he is not allowed to build up to the boundary. Second he needs plans. From your description it is totally illegal and the council should order him to demolish the structure. Here are some links to articles on our sister site, Building Regulations, that you might find informative.
      Minor Building Work – this explains what you can build without plans.
      Temporary Buildings Must be Authorized by the Local Authority – this will show that he cannot simply put up a structure and claim it is temporary (though there is no indication he has done this)
      Here is a link to the Consolidated Johannesburg Town Planning Scheme, 2011 which you can download FREE.
      It would be great if you give us some feedback once this has been resolved. It might help other homeowners who face similar problems.

  5. HI,
    Please could you assist with an answer to the following question – what is the minimum distance in terms of the regulations that a boundary fence/wall must be away from a street.

    I live in Bedfordview and the council has decided to widen the street in which we live. The street is narrow but only services 10 houses and thus the residents have never really experienced much concern in this regard.

    The residents on the one side of the street have extensive pavements of approximately 4 meters from their perimeter walls to the edge of the road, whereas the residents other side of the street (where I live ) have pavements of approximately 1 meter from the perimeter walls to the street.

    To widen the road the council has excavated and appropriated about half a meter of land from the side of the road which only had a meter to start with, and about a meter from the other side . This effectively means that the residents on the one side will, on completion of the widened road, have a pavement of about half a meter – being the total distance from their boundary walls to the road . Is this legal ? I can’t ever recall seeing a pavement of only half a meter.

    If we turned it around and the road was already there and a resident wished to build a boundary wall I am sure he would not be able to build it so close to the road.

    Many thanks for your assistance
    regards Natasha

    • Hi Natasha,
      This is not an easy one to answer as it all depends on the zoning regulations in your area. Roads do not fall under the National Building Regulations but are “deemed to be zoned as Transport Zone 2” (from Cape Town by-laws) and fall under the Department of Transport. Before they widened the road they should have notified you of their intentions and given you time to comment. Where it will affect you is if your local zoning laws have your building line measured from the roadside or the centerline then this will affect your allowed building line. If you were on the limit of the line before, you now might be in “contravention” of the bylaws if they widen the road as your building will now be inside the line but this should be the council’s problem not yours. Check with your local authority what their by-laws say. All the municipal contact numbers are here: municipality-contact

  6. Could you please give me the mix on the following:-Concrete used for footing Minimum compressive strength of 20 MPo sat 28 days.
    Structural concrete shall have a minimum compressive strength of 25 MPo at 28 days
    What is the SABS 227 rule.

    Please help with these questions

    Kind Regards
    Alice Botha

    • First of all SABS standards are now SANS (South African National Standards). And SANS 227 is for the manufacture of burnt clay masonry units – not concrete.
      SANS 2001 – CC2 gives recommendations for concrete mixes for construction.
      If using a class 42,5 cement:
      20 MPa – 100 kg cement + 230 litres building or river sand + 230 litres 19 mm stone + water (about 60 litres)
      25 MPa – 100 kg cement + 200 litre sand + 200 litres 19 mm stone + water (about 55 litres)
      If using a class 32,5 cement:
      20 MPa – 100 kg cement + 200 litres builder’s sand + 200 litres 19 mm stone + water (about 54 litres)
      25 MPa – 100 kg cement + 160 litre sand + 160 litres 19 mm stone + water (about 50 litres)
      All concrete is designed to have the minimum compressive strength at 28 days.
      MPa = megapascals

  7. Good Day Penny

    o Thanks for your information on Penny says:
    May 10, 2013 at 8:53 am

    The neighbor have already building a triple story house, close to a boundary. The building inspectors was there and he said there are no plans in place for the 3rd floor.

    Your assistance hereto will be highly appreciated.

    Prashila Mithal 083 228 8993
    Prashila Mithal | Project Administrator | PBB IT Africa Work Requests | Standard Bank Africa | 5 Simmonds Street | 6th floor
    Entrance 5 | Green 2 | Johannesburg | 2001 | : +27 11 631 3127 | : |

    My Questions are as follows:
    1. Are they allowed to build a triple story house. so close to the border
    2. If they neighbor changes their mind, and decide to build a courtyard, are they allowed?,
    3. If they are allowed, what the heights and Safety, Privacy and all the other building regulation of fire, etc.


    Note when the chief inspector when to the site, and he saw there were no plans The inspector then agreed that the 3rd floor will be handled by with city council attorneys., since there were no plans in placed.

    When i phone the inspector and saif they are still building, he said to me he cannot handcuffrf them, but should he not stop the project altogrther.
    What are my rights

    Your assistance hereto will be highly appreciated.

    Prashila Mithal 083 228 8993
    Prashila Mithal | Project Administrator | PBB IT Africa Work Requests | Standard Bank Africa | 5 Simmonds Street | 6th floor
    Entrance 5 | Green 2 | Johannesburg | 2001 | : +27 11 631 3127 | : |

    • Prashila they can only build what is on the plans. If there is no plan for the third storey, and the council is not doing anything to stop them building, I would go to an attorney. In the long run it is likely to be worth spending a few hundred rands to get an attorney involved – and demand in writing that the council forces your neighbour to stop building as a matter of urgency. After all the building inspector has basically told you that they are building illegally. But the local authority will have to go the route of their attorney – who will presumably give them a written warning to stop building. Only the council attorney can actually force them to stop. I know that they have to do things to the letter, which can be a slow drawn-out process. At the end of the day the council can eventually force your neighbour to demolish the building, but if they are dragging their heels now, then one wonders! You do need a formal assurance that the council is taking action – and an attorney should be able to get that for you.
      The boundary lines are another issue, and this is controlled by the city by-laws. I think I said before that if people want to build closer to the boundary than normally allowed, they MUST have neighbour’s consent. The by-laws also govern maximum height of buildings.
      The fire regulations raise interesting questions in terms of safety distances, and perhaps you can use these to force them to stop building (via your attorney). Have a look at the section on Fire Protection on our sister website Building Regulations. I have given you the link.
      Unfortunately the building regulations don’t govern privacy.

  8. Note i am not getting any joy out of the building inspectors at all, they tell me they need to submit plan, and the owner will be in contact with the Building inspector and that’s is not happening. The neighbor is continuing with the building, I do not who to speak to. Note building inspector are not making any attempt to check out

    Neighbor building double story house – 2 bricks away from my boundary. According to them there is a shop on the ground floor

    On the last floor is an open court yard – the building inspector Johannes – have spoken to the owner who will need built a wall all around on the top with new plans, and the owner has agreed,
    And also this will not need invade my privacy. Note I have a kitchen and a bedroom.

    Note both building inspectors are investigating / Investigated. My worry if this is done without proper plans? Chief Building Inspector has reassured me that plans needs to passed properly.

    Please can you investigate and advise me

    I need some kind of reassurance from you –, that all is Legit.,
    A document needs to be drawn out so I can have some kind of reassurance..

    Your assistance hereto will be highly appreciated.


    • Prashila, I have edited your letter and deleted names and contact numbers – but have them on file. I am 99% sure that to be able to build that close to a boundary in Lenasia you need neighbour’s consent. Check this with the local authority. Also, you say that the chief building inspector has told you that plans need to be approved. The question though is whether this has been done. If they need your signature, they can’t have approved plans and you can insist that the building operation is stopped until they do have proper plans. There is another article on Walls and fences on our sister website, Building Regulations. Scroll down to Comment #4. Pauline and her husband managed to contact the town planner (i.e. they went right to the top), and even though the zoning regulations have changed in Cape Town – and neighbour’s consent is no longer required for people to build right on a boundary line – they have forced the neighbour to increase the height of the wall so that their privacy is retained. Perhaps you should try getting to your local town planner.
      The only other thing I can think of is for you to go to an attorney and have him/her write a letter to the local authority demanding proof that your neighbour has approved plans. It shouldn’t cost more than a few hundred rands. But check the neighbour’s consent issue first – because that would be a trump card.

  9. Thank you for your reply Penny

  10. Can a neighbour demolish a cracked wall, build a new one and require half of what he claims the project cost without any proof (quotation, invoice, till slips etc.) whatsoever? We were not consulted in any decision making.

    • The short answer is NO! But there are several issues here. 1) If it is a party wall – i.e. owned by two parties – and the wall is damaged, then both parties are obliged to contribute to the maintenance and repair of the wall. However neither party is permitted to “tamper” with the wall in any way – except to improve the appearance of it on their side. So if it is a party wall, you would have had to agree in advance that the wall would be demolished and rebuilt – and then both pay 50%. 2) If the wall is on his/her side of the boundary, you have no liability at all. Even if it is ON the boundary, if the neighbour owns the wall, then I assume you would have to agree to contribute towards the new wall, because you would benefit. But I don’t think you would be obliged to. And certainly not without proof of all the costs incurred. And since you were not consulted at all, I know what I would say! 3) If you own the wall then your neighbour would not have the right to demolish it at all, without your consent. Your local authority should be able to advise who owns the wall.

  11. Hi,
    My property has a garage which is built on part of the side boundry of my property. I also have a cottage which is build on the back boundry of my property.
    Is it possible for me to extend the garage on the rest of the side boundry?

    • Colin, presumably the garage and cottage were built with plans and the approval of the local authority. Generally one also needs neighbours’ consent in writing. Unless you live in the “City of Cape Town” area which recently changed its zoning by-laws and now allows people to build on a boundary without neighbours’ consent (with certain limitations), you will need to ask your neighbours to agree to the extensions. You will also need to have plans drawn up by a competent person, and approved by your local authority. The limitations in terms of how much of the boundary you can build on will depend on your local by-laws. As an example, The City of Cape Town’s new zoning by-laws state that people living on plots from 200-650 sq m in size may build 3,5 m from the street boundary (except for a garage that may be up to 1,5 m from the street boundary if it is no wider than 6,5 m); then up to 12 m from the street boundary they may build on the common boundary (i.e. neighbour’s boundary) – obviously taking the 1,5 m or 3,5 m allowance into account; and then for 60% of the total remaining linear distance along all common boundaries around the land unit, and 3 m for the remainder.
      NB There are other things that come into account including no windows or doors to face the boundary and the height of the building that is allowed.
      You will need to find out what your local authority permits.

      • Hi Penny. If our neighbour builds on the boundry line as now allowed in Cape Town, can the wall to his house be on the line or must he allow for space for the house’s foundations? In other words, is he allowed to use my property for his foundations so long as the wall is on the boundry line? Thanks, Sean.

        • Hi Sean, This is a tricky one. I have just spoken to my Building Inspector contact who has this problem come up regularly. Until now they would take the wall as the part of the structure that had to be on the boundary line. But it seems as though these matters will have to be resolved in a civil court and the building inspectors will act as the go-between until the court has decided on each particular case. To date most cases have included the foundations as part of the structure, and even though the foundations are buried underground, the structure including foundations must be on the inside if the boundary. We always suggest that when there is a new wall between neighbours (yours is not just a wall) that an agreement in writing is made between them where they share the cost and the responsibility, and then lodge a certified copy with the local council. I will be getting more legal documents relating to this in the next few days, when I do I will post a new article.

  12. Hi, we’re looking to build onto our granny flat, but this is built against the boundary wall at the back of the house. We bought the house with the existing one bed flat. Now I understand there are laws against building on the boundary wall, am not too sure now how/if we can add onto this current building. Another problem, there is a man-hole next to the granny flat, not sure if this will also complicate the building plans?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Ntsiki the bylaws governing building-lines and boundaries are different in different areas, sometimes even within different areas within one city or town. For instance the City of Cape Town now allows people to build on the boundary with certain limitations in terms of extent, height etc, based on the size of the property. No neighbors consent is required, but plans must be submitted and approved by the local authority. This is very new and is governed by the City’s new zoning by-law that came into effect in March this year. I am not aware of any other local authorities that allow this; most insist on at least 2-3 m from the boundary. The boundary lines of your property should be marked on the plans and/or the surveyor general’s diagram (completed when the area was zoned for residential or other use). The zoning certificate will state what coverage is allowed – i.e. how much of the land you are allowed to build on.
      To add onto the granny flat, you will, in any case require plans. If the existing flat is not on the existing plans, you will need to sort this out first. The National Building Regulations & Standards Act now requires plans to be drawn by a competent person, and this person has the responsibility of submitting the plans to the local authority and ultimately making sure that the work is done according to the plans. If you don’t have plans, zoning certificate etc. a competent person will assist in getting these before the new plans are drafted.
      In terms of the man-hole, this might have to be moved – which has implications for the underground drains and pipework. A qualified registered plumber would have to do this job according to the plans drawn up by the competent person you use.

  13. Hi, I stay next to a company which used to be a hundred meters or so away from my house, they have since started expanding, i now have a 6m wall 25m from my house and a plant that will be erected behind this wall which will stand about 30m tall. This is a refinery, they are using hazardous chemical substances, furnaces and such, and there are audible evacuation alarms. They have also built a chopper pad which is behind my house, the border wall of the pad is 5m from my house, they currently have earth moving equipment an peckers working on the site!

    my question is, is this legal, as the erecting of the plant and the current activities surrounding the preparation of this plant is severely effecting the value of my property, what are the legal limits that such a plant can be erected from my residence and whom can i contact for legal advice and possible legal action, or don’t I have a foot to stand on as they claim that they are doing everything within the law!

    • Francois this sounds horrendous, but I think the crux of the matter is what the land is zoned for. This certainly would not be allowed i a residential area. But if your home is in an industrial area, I am not sure what you can do. You probably do need to get legal advice.

  14. Thanks you Janek. The servitude on my boundary was registered with the adjacent landowner’s consent to give access to home owners on a small new housing development, from a further landlocked site through to the nearest tarred road. It is not a servitude that specifies on the deed any particular or specific use. As it is on my boundary for more than 100m am I entitled to exit my property using the servitude without any necessary permission or red tape? The developer says I am not allowed to use it.

    • Hi Philip,
      It sounds to me from the info you have supplied that it is a “private treaty” entered into between your neighbour (the owner) and the developer. It is not public land that everyone has access to, so it seems as though the developer is correct. If you want access then make a request to them both for “permission” and see what they say.

  15. A neighbour has registered a Public Servitude which runs directly on the boundary line of my property.

    1. Should there not be space between the servitude and my property?
    2. How close can I build to the servitude?

    Many thanks for any info.

    • Hi Phillip,
      As your comment was posted on our Boundary Walls page I assume that you have looked at the example site plan. I must stress that all properties are different and often have their own limitations written into the title deed. The site plan is just a guide and as a rule of thumb you will see that the building line to the front boundary, onto the road is 5 metres; the side boundaries to the neighbors is 2.5 metres; and the back one, onto a public open space, the same as a servitude, is 3 metres. Servitudes can be anywhere on, under or through your property. If you want or need to build closer, then you will have to apply for a waiver from the council. They may also need a consent form signed by the neighbour/s. We bought a plot once to build on, only to find out later that there was a servitude registered against the property for a new road through the bottom half of the garden.

 Leave a Reply


(required but will remain confidential and not be published)

© 2012-2017 SANS 10400 • © Notice Sitemap • Contact Us • Terms & Conditions Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha