Managing Conflicts and Disputes in your Neighborhood

Managing Conflicts and Disputes in your Neighborhood

CONFLICT & DISPUTE MANAGEMENT

How to co-exist peacefully with your neighbors

If you have the privilege of having nice neighbors, then you are a very lucky person. More often than not we find that the people living next to or near you may not be very pleasant and can make your life very stressful.

There are quite a lot of different people and often quite different types of potential disputes. It is always worth it to take your time to know the people who live next to you or near you as neighbors play key factors in our lives and our community.

With the increasing trend to fit a large number of houses into developments and gated areas, there’s the possible risk of having houses built closer together. This in turn may create conflicts and disputes between neighbors.

In this modern setting, there are various ways disputes may arise, for instance:

Boundary Walls

This is determined as the most common dispute. It can basically cover anything, from the tree trunks and branches encroaching on a neighbor’s property, roots uplifting the neighbors pavement or at times walls or leaves falling into the neighbor’s pool.

The rule that is generally accepted is that boundary walls and fences are the joint property of the neighbors who are both equally liable for maintenance and repair.

However, neither of the two can make any changes without the consent of the other party. If you bring into attention a complain, and your neighbor is unprepared to do anything yet you’re not prepared to live with overhanging branches, you should ask him or her to cut them away and also to remove the cuttings from your side of the fence. If he or she refuses to do this, you can cut the branches back to the property line – however you’re not allowed to keep the cuttings unless your neighbor refuses to take them.

If your neighbor refuses to take them you’d be within your rights to dispose of them, and to recover the costs of the disposal from the neighbor.

Should none of these work, you could apply for an interdict to compel the neighbor to remove the branches.

Noise Disturbances

When you’re in a community that has a fair distribution in population, having to deal with noisy neighbors is one of the perks. The disturbances can vary from loud music, arguing and fighting, barking dogs or even banging of doors and drilling on the walls.

The Law of Kenya distinguishes between disturbing noise, which is objective and scientifically measurable noise and Noise Nuisance, which is any noise that disturbs or impairs the peace and convenience of any person.

The most practical and cost effective way to deal with noise disturbances is to approach your neighbor directly. Do this politely and tell them the problem and if you are unable to reach an amicable solution, you should consider appointing a mediator to achieve resolution to the dispute.

One may also consider reporting the matter to the Environmental Management Authority.

As with most legal matters it is sensible to try all avenues of resolving a matter before a court is approached. Should you have exhausted all of the above methods to no avail then you are allowed to take legal action.

Encroachment

In simple terms, encroachment refers to a situation where you have constructed on your property but part of the structure is on the neighbors property. These structures may be driveways, a retaining wall, a fence, trees or even part of the building structure itself. Encroaching is trespassing and the encroaching land owner is legally responsible.

Erection of Buildings

In the case where there is a blocked view due to a new building plan, the neighbors possess some rights, most especially in the case blocked views and over-coverage, inappropriate use of a buildings and unsightly buildings all the same. When a complaint has been launched forth, demolition can be ordered even after the building has been erected.

Development Objections

Any development such as alterations of buildings or the construction of new building structures or roads or change of the use of land as well as subdivision of land require consent from either the County Urban Planning Committee or the County Government. Any objections should be submitted in written form.

A person who wants to object should ask the County for a copy of the Physical Development plan for the area which sets out the factors the County must consider before approving a proposal. If consent is given in spite of the objections the objector can appeal in writing to the Environment Court against the consent.

Where a neighbor persists with an activity in contravention of planning requirements and the County will not take action to prevent this illegal use, any citizen may complain to the Ombudsman that the County or Government departments have not done their duty.

Land Use

If these types of private rights are infringed, a person may go to court to seek compensation or an order to stop the offending activity.

In some situations, what a neighbor may be proposing to do is contrary to the private rights of the adjoining owner. These rights usually arise by agreement in the form of easements and covenants which appear on the land title documents. For example, if there is an agreement between a couple of land owners not to put up a certain type of fence one adjoining owner will have a private right against another. Similarly, there may be a private agreement to mutually support each other’s walls There may be an agreement which ensures open access to light and air, or which prevents building on a certain part of a block of land.

Always Choose Peace

There are a number of ways one can solve disputes but one thing that we all agree on is that a polite and direct approach on any issue is the best way to go about things. The advantages of having neighbors outweigh the disadvantages. This can be seen on scenarios such as when one is away and needs an extra pair of eyes on their property or even when one has bigger emergencies such as a trip to the hospital.

At the end of the day the fact remains that your home is your biggest asset and it is very appealing to come home to a subtle conflict free environment.

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