Reasonableness in Neighbour Law Relations

When dealing with neighbour law; it is necessary to look at statutory limitations as their function is to limit those entitlements that the owner has in relation to his property. These statutory limitations also mean that owners exercise entitlements with the community’s interest in mind . How neighbour law functions is by ownership restriction, which serves the other neighbour(s) interests. Neighbour law regulates neighbour relations and there are six ways in which it can be differentiated and dealt with. These are nuisance; lateral and surface support; encroachments; surface water; party walls and fences and eliminating of danger.


As a point of departure with regard to tooling a definition for nuisance, it should be understood that there is no fixed definition for the term. Nuisance is defined as a type of interference or encroachment to a legal subject’s right of usage or enjoyment towards property and a balance between the neighbour’s rights and interests should be balanced against each other. In order to test whether or not such interests are balanced against each other, a criterion of “reasonableness” is found in the Malherbe v Ceres Municipality case were it was said that it is expected of neighbours to behave in a reasonable manner towards each other. In addition; a level of tolerance is expected from the neighbours, when exercising entitlements as owners. It must further be understood that, when dealing with nuisance there is a standard which can be applied in order to deal with nuisance and that particular standard was formulated and dealt with in Prinsloo v Shaw which mentions that:

“The standard to be taken must be that of perverse or finicking or overscrapulous person, but of the normal man of sound and liberal tastes and habits.” From the above mentioned, what can be understood or deduced is that “the standard” or test can be related to a law term such as “reasonable man’s test”.

In addition; when dealing with situations in neighbour law, there are two ways in which, in relation to “nuisance”. Firstly there is nuisance in a narrow and again in a broader sense and the remedies to such situations are either prohibitory interdict or a delictual claim for compensation.