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 – is the building line defined as up to where the walls can be built to, or the entire structure (including roof overhang?

    • The roof overhang Edward.

      • Wow – everyone I’ve spoken to says it’s the walls – and the the roof can ‘hang’ over the building line…

        • Hi Edward,
          If your building line is well within your property, then yes. But building lines can be right on the boundary. The problem comes in when councils do the assessment of land used for rates and taxes. They work out rates on the areas covered by the roof. How do they work that one out when it overhangs your neighbor? Does he pay some of your rates? I don’t think so. If you are not certain then contact your local council and try and get clarity from them.

          • Thank you for your response.

            I was thinking more when one’s neightbour has a 2m building line and the the roof overhangs this by 800mm or so (but obviously within the boundary line)…

          • Edward, You should probably ask your local authority’s planning department for their interpretation of this. I’d be interested to know what they say.

  2. Does anyone have an example of the letter of consent from your neighbours to encroach on the building line? Thanks.

  3. Hi, my drain, kitchen and batheoom outlet is in my neihgbors yard and don’t have access to. The boundary wall stops at my room.

    • Hi Jaco,
      This does not sound right. I have not seen the situation so I cannot judge but it does sound as though something not in keeping with the regulations has happened here. If it is a major problem for you then you must contact your local building inspector and ask his advice.

  4. My (uncooperative) neighbor built a precast wall just on his side of the boundary.

    Am I permitted to secure this wall with spikes on top?

    Attached to my side, but visible to him?

    Attached to my side but invisible to him?

  5. I need to know what restrictions are require before plans are drawn for boundry wall to be build. ?

    • Hi Louis,
      Each municipality has the right by law to make its own zoning areas and by-laws that relate to each zone. So you will need to establish from your local authority, first the zone that you are in and secondly what by-laws affect your area. These by-laws will have all the restrictions thay you are looking for. Contact your local authority, we have a full list on our other site hare: municipality-contact

  6. Hi,

    I live in JHB and need advice regarding boundary/building line regulations.
    I currently have a patio that ends on to the building line – which is no problem.
    The question I have: How far over the building line may the roof stretch. i.e. If I plant the poles of the patio roof on the building line (as currently), can the roof extend another meter, or does the building line impose a limit on the plastic sheeting roof size too? I would like to increase the under-roof area of my patio slightly.

    I would appreciate any feedback.
    Regards Heide

    • Hi Heide,
      I have been looking trying to find a specitic reference in the Johannesburg by-laws that refers to a “canopy” overhanging the building line but have had no success. The only reference I can find is to businesses having a canopy on the shopfronts overhanging the street boundary line. There are rules relating to the area covered as a percent of the erf size but this depends what zone you are in according to the by-laws. They also refer to any extension or addition adversely affecting neighbours. I do not think you will have any problem, but I would give the local council a call and ask them.

  7. Hi, I have had a double stores building go up behind me. On signing an agreement for the plans with the builder he agreed to build a wooden extension of 1.5m to the existing wall which is 2.5m tall so as limit line of sight into my roof to ensure privacy. The builder has not met this agreement. Is there anything I can do about this and if not am I able to erect my own extension? Do I need council approval?

    • Megan there should have been plans put into Council before the builder did the job. If you have a signed agreement, you can hold him to it – if necessary get a lawyer to write him a letter of demand.

  8. Hi,

    I am looking for some advise.

    I have an patio/braai room about 3,5 meters from our boundary wall. i am looking to extend the room to the boundary wall to have a enclosed sun room.

    I am aware that doors and windows need to be atleast 1meter from the boundary wall, are there any other issues doing this ?

    Thank you !

    • Kyle if you are extending a room you need plans. Furthermore, you may not be allowed to extend right to the boundary wall. e.g. It depends where you live and what your municipal bylaws say in terms of boundary lines. I suggest you contact the planning department of your local authority.

  9. Hi

    We have a full title property in a complex in Kempton Park. I have just found out that the neighbours built a garage right on our boundary line i.e. our hollywood garage and their garage share a wall. I have tenants staying in the house that is why I was not aware of it.

    They never obtained any permission from us and the HOA allowed them to build without notifying us. What are the legal requirements with regards to this? Were we not suppose to give permission first?

    We want to enclose the back of the garage and have been informed that we need plans and we would need to apply for building line relaxation. I am now extremely confused as I didn’t even think we needed plans period.

    Please assist.



    • Tracy as far as I know Cape Town is the only place where it is no longer necessary to get neighbors consent to build on a boundary providing you have plans and abide by the other local authority requirements – this includes a specified length along the boundary that you can build + area of the property. You can check with the local authority whether your neighbour submitted plans and/or was given permission to build. In terms of the National Building Regulations the local authority has the right to allow certain construction without plans. See Part A of SANS 10500.
      You would also need plans and depending where you live, might need to apply for permission to build on or near a building line (in which case you will need neighbour’s consent). But if you do, then your neighbour probably built illegally.

  10. Hi just wanted a bit of advice, I recently bought a corner property with an electric box in the front of the house. I want to place a fence around the front of the house, do I need to leave the electric box outside of the fence or can I include it as part of my front garden? Do I need approval for this?

    • Hi Victoria,
      Electrical boxes that are alongside the street are the property of either ESKOM or the Electricity Department of your local authority. No you will not be able to include the box inside your property as the electrical maintenance people need access to the box 24/7 for emergencies and maintenance. That box is usually the junction for a few of your neighbours as well. When the box is installed the council should have made sure that the box is sited on council land and so cannot be enclosed. The other thing to note is that some by-laws require a cut-off corner to allow motorists a clear view of oncoming traffic.(see pic below of an electric box and a cut-off corner) You can see these boundary lines on your site plan, if you do not have a copy you can get one from your local authority.
      Corner boundary wall and electric box.

  11. Hi
    I want to put up a front boundary wall built from brick and palisade between the pillars. I am not sure if I understand correctly. Will i need plans drawn if it is up to 1.8m excluding the foundation?
    I live in Bothasig, Cape Town


    • Hi Trevor,
      The by-laws in your area state that: “Solid boundary walls may not be any higher than shall 1.8 m on street boundaries, and no higher than 2,1 m on lateral boundaries.” If you have a look at our other page (ownerbuilding/minor-building-works) you will see that plans are not normally required as a boundary wall up to 1.8m is considered “minor building work” But You must inform your local council of what you intend to do and be aware that they may want plans but this is up to them. Read more here: boundary-walls-and-fences

      • the limit of 1.8m for a solid wall to the front of the property is not enforceable at is not in line with national regulations.

        • Hi Cheyne,
          It is totally in line with the National Building Regulations.
          This is an extract from the beginning of PART-A of the Regulations:
          (1) The requirements of the National Building Regulations shall be complied with by ––
          (b) satisfying all functional regulations by ––
          (ii) reliably demonstrating, or predicting with certainty, to the satisfaction of the appropriate local authority, that an adopted building solution has an equivalent or superior performance to a solution that complies with the requirements of the relevant part of SANS 10400.

          This means that every Local Authority has the right to enforce their by-laws in terms of the National Regulations.

          The National Regulations 2008 under “minor building work” states (extracts):
          minor building work
          as contemplated in section 13 of the Act means ––
          a) the erection of any ––
          ix) any free-standing wall constructed of masonry, concrete, steel, aluminium or timber or any wire fence where such wall or fence does not exceed 1,8 m in height at any point above ground level and does not retain soil.

          I see that Penny answered a similar question from you yesterday on our Building Regulations site.
          Cheyne it is the law, you might try and get away with it for a while but I think it will catch up you eventually.

  12. Hi, can you please tell me whether I can make changes to the sidewalk in front of a property, especially to lower the curb in such a way that it does not damage the tyres of my car when trying to access the property. Kind regards Louisa

    • Hi Louisa,
      I would advise against tamtering with any Council or Roads Department structures without first speaking to them and getting approval in writing from them. But I am puzzled by your note, do you not have a dropped kerb to allow access to your driveway? This should have been applied for when the house was being built so the roads department in your area could put it where you needed it. If you do not have a drop kerb then you will have to apply to the correct department and have them put one in for you.

  13. Good Day Penny

    My apologies to you Penny.

    I might have phrase the question incorrectly, regarding the balcony on the second floor facing the street.
    The question really is what height should the balcony be on the second floor , the side of my yard which is two bricks away from my boundary, and that is invading my privacy.

    Your urgent reply hereto will be appreciated.



    • Prashila I have given you as much information as I can. There is nothing in the Building Regulations that gives one specific height for a second floor balcony. I would be more concerned about the fact that the structure is so close to your boundary. Here’s a link to our sister website where you can download the City of Johannesburg’s Town Planning Scheme. There may be something there that will help you.

  14. Good day! What does the law say about an existing building that was built within 1.5 meters of the our municipal previously – now the new owners are building a double storey house on top of the existing structure obstructing 90% of our view. The outside wall of the main building is well within one metre of the municipal boundary between our properties. Did they not need written permission from us as neighbours to get the plans approved ? – as it is almost directly on the borderline (less than 1 metre) from our garage. We are on the slopes of Table Mountain in Walmer Estate.

    If anyone can please post the regulations specifically related to this situation I would be very grateful!!

    • Hi Rudy,
      It all depends on the size of the property. Up to 650sq m then they can build on the boundary without neighbours consent and have a height restriction of 10m to the top of the roof. If over 650sq m then they must be 3m away with a height restriction of 11m to the top of the roof. They are definitely not allowed to do any construction work without council approval. The other thing to check is if the foundations have been designed by an engineer so that they can hold the weight of a double storey. You should contact the City Council immediately before any more building is done and tell them it is urgent. Please keep in touch and let us know the outcome.

      • The are already at roof height – plans were approved. We however were of the understanding that where they are building so close to our boundary they would need our approval PRIOR to the approval of the plans. Their erf size is in fact 397 square meters – however where it is so right in our face and taking away 90% of our view it appears that we have no right to challenge the approval of the plans!! What is worse – our other neighbour’s swimming pool and entertainment area is now being blocked in by an 8 meter high brick wall – where he had stunning views of the city skyline from that area before as well!! What happened to common decency?? None of the neighbours were approached by either the builders, new owners or municipality in any way – we were just surprised by these walls rising and rising every day!

        The new owners have the right to develop – but we don’t seem to have any rights whatsoever! We feel let down by the system!!

        • Hi Rudy,
          Firstly I must point out that we are not lawyers and do not profess to be, we are only here to help and to point people in the right direction to the best of our abilities. I also point out the “Terms & Conditions” on our site relating to the advice that we supply.

          There are a few laws and precedents in law that relate to your situation.

          The most recent is the case of NDLAMBE MUNICIPALITY vs MATTHEW ROBERT MICHAEL LESTER – CASE NO. 92/2011
          Here is a reference used in the case:
          Extract from Joubert, “The law of South Africa,” Volume 27 1st re-issue (2002) para [317] and the authorities there cited:
          “When a landowner erects a structure on his land he must take care that he does not encroach on his neighbour’s land. This rule of neighbour law is not only applicable in cases where the building itself or its foundations encroach on neighbouring land but also where roofs, balconies or other projections encroach on the airspace above a neighbour’s.
          In the case of encroaching structures the owner of the land which is encroached upon can approach the court for an order compelling his neighbour to remove the encroachment …. Despite the above rule the court can, in its discretion, in order to reach an equitable and reasonable solution, order the payment of compensation rather than the removal of the structure. This discretion is usually exercised in cases where the costs of removal would be disproportionate to the benefit derived from the removal. If the court considers it equitable it can order that the encroaching owner take transfer of the portion of the land which has been encroached on. In such circumstances the aggrieved party is entitled to payment for that portion of land, costs in respect of the transfer of the land as well as a solatium on account of trespass and involuntary deprivation of portion of his land.”

          4. Ndlambe had failed to furnish reasons for the approval, resulting in the presumption under section 5 (3) of PAJA that the approval was without good reason.

          1. What is the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA)
          The PAJA is the law passed to “give effect” to the right to just administrative action in the Bill of Rights. This says everyone has the right:
          • To fair, lawful and reasonable administrative action; and
          • To reasons for administrative action that affects them negatively.

          My personal interpertation here is that the two things that stand out are firstly that the building height that affects the view of neighbours needs to be taken into account when approving plans and that according to the PAJA Act the council is obliged to consult with neighbours when approving plans that seriously affect their neighbours enjoyment of their respective properties. The judge in this case made the suggestion that rather than demolish the structure that compensation be paid to the affected neighbours.

          If there are more neighbours affected by this then you must join together as this will have much more punch. Then I think you should firstly contact the council and point out these facts to them, but you must also put it in writing. If you do not get any response them you might have to contact an attorney to take the matter up on your behalf.

          I hope this helps. Again, keep in touch and let us know what happens.

  15. Hi Penny

    Hope you doing well,

    I bought a semi detached townhouse in cape town, and on the on side there is about 2,5m gap from the other house, and 2,2m of that gap belongs to me, but I can’t erect a boundary wall because its to close to the other building as it contains windows on that side…any suggestions as I’d like to use that side and it will increase the value of my property in that area.

    Thanking you in advance

    • Hi Angelo,
      It sounds too complicated a situation to assess and advise in this format. Different zones have different building lines you need to check these. As for the window facing your property so close to the boundary, I don’t think that it is legal. As you work for the City of CT you can call the planning department and ask if they can do an inspection and advise you what you are allowed to do.

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