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 Penny,

    I need to ask a qeustion relating to the 2m boundry line. We live in a complex and our living area is a bit packed. So we looked at some possible ways of opening up a bit. We found that we like the new aluminium and glass structure. We started enquiring with the Body corporate as it is a sectional title scheme. They approved it. So we started enquiring about the plans and we were informed that due to the fact that we are on the boundary wall. We will be entering in to the 2m section as per our by laws.

    The qeustion here is.

    Is it possible to obtain permission from council to enter the 2m section?

    Thank you


  2. My neighbour is building a rental structure (flats) about 2 meters from the border line, of which my house is 3 meters from the border. This will prevent me receiving enough direct sunlight especially in the mornings. Is he within his Rights to build so close to the borders and what is the regulation regarding rental structures in the neibourhood? Do I have a right to complain?

    • Contact the local authority because he will need approved plans from them as well as permission to build multiple structures and/or buildings he plans to rent out. If the building line of his property doesn’t allow him to build that close he will need your permission – which you can of course refuse to give.

  3. Hi Penny

    I would like to build a double storey unit on my land in Hillary, Durban.

    I understand that we are allowed to build multiple units as it zoned for such.

    I would like to build atleast 120sqm per storey living area (240 in total) so I would need to maximise land.

    My question to you is, what is the allowed distance to build a double storey unit from boundary walls without special resolutions?

    Also, what is the legal height boundary wall can I build without any plans?
    I would like to start something so long and just add to the plans later.

    Thanks in Advance

    I am trying to avoid special resolution because of the cost implications.

    • You will need to contact the local authority as it is all to do with bylaws rather than building regs. Also it is linked to the zoning

  4. hi
    1: i hv build a garage in a front boundary wall 1meter in the boundary wall then extended my balcony 1m outside the boundary…do I hv to get permission for dat?

    2:is it possible to be fined R 40 000 for my above situation without being given a notice to rectify de mistake. ?
    tanx …!!
    regards Gift

  5. Good day,

    We have a small plot of 235m2. As far as i know the house has to be 1500mm from the boundry walls. But can the garage actually be build right up to boundry walls or close than the 1500mm?


    • If the bylaws and/or title deed require building to be 1500 mm from boundaries, then you will need a waiver from council to build closer. Usually there is a set percentage of linear metres that people may build along a boundary. But there is no standard length. Contact your local authority (municipality) to find out if they can give you this information.

  6. Hi Penny

    I assume from all the examples i see that you can get permission to build your garage on the boundary line?

    • Sometimes and sometimes not. There are usually bylaws that specify building on boundaries and what percentage of the boundary may be built on. You will probably find this in the zoning plan for your area.

  7. Good day.

    I need some help/clarification on a property that my client is selling.

    The property is about 2.5 hectares, and leads up to the hill.

    This is where the clients want to build the house from, for the view etc. The surrounding houses/complexes next to the Erf are also built from the top side of the hill overlooking the area.

    I have been advised that the property entrance to this specific erf is at the bottom, which is not going to be favorable to the new buyers.

    The Sellers have advised that they can apply from the JHB council to get the entrance approved from the other street (hill side) and make that their entrance point to the property. What type of application is that and how can they go about in applying for permission to change the address / entrance. Can this be done?

    Thank you

    • Good heavens – and you are a conveyancing attorney! I suggest you contact the planning dept at the City of Jhb and ask what their requirements are. It can be done in the right circumstances. People often change entrance points.

  8. Hi,

    I hope this is the appropriate place to ask this question.

    My neighbour recently erected an unsightly (also quite low quality workmanship – unpainted welded steel with coiled razor wire) structure on top of our joint boundary wall. The structure contains steel and galvanized razor wire. No consent was obtained from me prior to the erection of the structure. The position of the alteration is right in front of our main living area and I would dearly like him to consider an alternative. I requested him to find a mutually acceptable alternative, but he is however adamant that this is his solution to his own security and I will remain as it is. Do I have any recourse? Some background: he had a recent housebreaking incident.

    I don’t know where to start. Advice would be appreciated!

    • 1) Who owns the wall? If it is on the boundary it could be joint ownership – if he, or a previous owner of his property erected it, chances are he owns it. Have a look at the section on Ownership of Boundary Walls and Fences in this article. If you own the wall or it is owned jointly, then you have the right to either refuse permission for him to do this (force him to remove it) or if jointly owned, you both have to agree.
      2) Check with local authority regarding the by-laws. There is a chance you will find that coiled razor wire is not permitted.
      3) The height of the wall may also be a factor in terms of the by-laws or general safety, if low.

  9. We are in the process of purchasing a property with a panhandle driveway of about 50m. We have a few queries we need some clarity on. Can we:

    a) put a swing gate at the front of the property? And if so, any restrictions or rules we need to be aware of?

    b) can I add modesty extensions on the interior property walls? Basically screens to improve visibility as most of the neighbours can look into our yard due to the slope? Approximately 65cm increase in height of the standard wall.

    c) can I put electric fending on the wall (without lean into the neighbours yards?

    d) if trees overhand into our yard, what are the rules? Can I ask the neighbours to trim and remove the cuttings?

    Thank you!

    • a) Your local municipality will be able to advise if there are restrictions.
      b) If the screens make the walls higher than 1,8 m then you might need plans.
      c) There are several articles on this site that deal with electric fencing. I have given links to two of them.
      d) I have written quite a lot about this, I think mostly in the comments relating to fences … You can ask them to cut the branches – you can also trim those that are on your site. It is always best to discuss this with your neighbour first.

  10. Hi I am currently having various problems regarding the property we purchased in 2006 .

    Firstly we had a problem with swimming pool , were we had leaks in a fixed pool built into ground as a fiber glass lining .We had a few pool specialist come out , including one from the Bank and we were told the cracks were due to wear and tear and due to ground movement . Claim as rejected .

    Second and third problem, was due to recent flash flooding from about a month ago :

    – roof leaks which resulted in ceiling collapsing – bank sent out 1 assessor who basically reprotd it as wear and tear and claim was rejected
    – rock feature wall which goes from parking to pool , after heavy rain’s a section of this wall collapsed when we tried claiming we were told that this wall was built to NBR standard’s

    I am basically highly annoyed with Standard Bank , because all the areas wer pre- existing . When it came to bonding and insuring property they sent out their assessor’s who should have inspected and advised if there was any concerns as to items which weren’t up NBR standard . I have no clue when this wall was built , however , it was there when we purchased and insured property .

    Please kindly advise if you can assist with any suggestion to challenge Home owner’s Insurance .

    kind regards
    Devan Nair

    • The only thing you could try is to get an independent report from one or more reputable building contractors, or better still a building specialist (perhaps an engineer) who works as an arbitrator in the industry. However, since you’ve been in the house for a decade, chances are these problems are due to wear and tear. Also, check the small print in your insurance policy. If it doesn’t cover so-called “acts of God” then don’t bother paying for reports etc.

  11. Best Penny
    We are faced with an awkward situation. We purchased a ruin in a sectional title. The building was extended and previously approved by the Governing Body and the Mdoni Municipality on the South Coast. The owners were sequestrated and the property was never completed. We bought the damaged property on an bankrupt auction form the Body Corporate. After our purchase we had the property surveyed on request of the Body Corporate and discovered that a one corner of house encroached with the neighboring land. (approximately 2.46m) We requested permission from the neighbor for encroachment. The gentleman agreed to sign for an amount of R 25 000.00. We discovered that his land was divided but never registered as such at the Deeds Office. The land is baron and has no access. It is between a highway and our complex. Due to complications and costs we decided to demolish the encroached corner up to a meter from the boundary line and apply for relaxation. The owner refuses to sign. 1. What are our rights? 2. Who is responsible? 3. What is the legal distance that we may build from the boundary line? If we demolish 6 meters it affects the original, registered building. We need assistance because we have little assistance from the body corporate. Kind Regards. Deon

    • The legal distance you can build will be governed by the local bylaws and possibly the body corporate. You probably need to get legal advice.

  12. Hi there,

    Thank you for this drawing. I have already printed it out and stuck it up in my study at home (where all the creative building plans tend to be concocted).

    May I please ask. I have one of those houses whereby the garages are set back about 1 car length from the road with no gate in front of the property. As such you can drive off the road onto you in front of garage parking and enter the property from either the garage or the side gate that is on the boundary wall. (really hope this makes sense). I would like to put up a gate now along the boundary line (such that the cars now sit in front of the garage, but behind a gate). However as the garages were built a little closer to the road than i would have liked, the gate will literally be set back 1m from the road line. This is significantly closer than my current boundary wall is to the road line, about 2 meters i would guess.

    Would this be allowed or perhaps special permission given or am I perhaps barking up the wrong tree and would never even be considered. I have even thought about maybe making it a floating structure in order to say that nothing is bolted to the ground post the allowed building limit.

    Your help would be greatly appreciated.


  13. hi my neigbour has put a boundry wall between mine an his property but did not plaster or paint my side

  14. Hi Penny

    my house is a double story on the other side and i need to add more rooms ontop of the garage as well, do i need municapl authority to do that

  15. Good day Penny,

    i purchased a house about 3.5 year ago. about 6 months back i got a letter in my post box from the building inspector saying to call him regarding plans that are not approved…

    To my shock, he said that the plans for my entertainment area is not approved. From further research, i discovered that the building plans was withdrawn 3 month before i purchased the house, but the previous owner did not tell me that the plans were not approved…nor did he indicate that there are any faults.

    can you advise?


    • Sounds like fraud! The problem is that you are now the owner and so liable. You would need to take legal action against the previous owner.

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