A different view

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Most homeowners are – understandably –very protective of the views that they enjoy from their homes. This is particularly true when that view adds value to the property.

Homes with panoramic sea views for example, generally command a higher price, and the idea that a neighbour is building a property that will interfere with the view or even block out part of the landscape, generally causes the blood to boil. Various court cases have been heard and while in some cases the judge has ruled in favour of the complainant, this doesn’t mean that every homeowner will automatically win and that they will continue to enjoy the uninterrupted views around them.

Regrettably, says Bill Rawson, chairman of Rawson Property Group, in nine cases out of 10 there is nothing that the severely disadvantaged home owner can do. This is because all homes in that street or precinct, although initially perhaps small and appropriately sized for their plots, on investigation will be found to have had the right to extend upwards or sideways from the time that the plans were first approved.

Legal opinion

There’s an interesting legal opinion on the “right to a view” question on the City of Johannesburg’s official website in which it’s stated that there is no direct reference to the retention of a view in any of the categories for the refusal of a building plan. Indeed the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act (Act 103 of 1977) states that building plans may be rejected if (the building) to be erected (is done so) in such a manner or will be of such a nature or appearance that:

  • the area in which it is to be erected will probably or in fact be disfigured thereby

  • +

it will probably or in fact be unsightly or objectionable

  • it will probably or in fact derogate from the value of adjoining or neighbouring properties

The report goes on to say: “It has been said that the obstruction of a view could be considered to ‘derogate from the value’ of an existing property but this ‘derogation’ is very difficult to prove. Property valuations of this kind are an art, not a science, and experience has shown that a variety of very different valuations can be obtained for the same property, depending upon the point of departure when requesting a valuation. Common sense tells us that the mere fact that a building obstructs a vista of the surroundings does not necessarily mean that the area is disfigured thereby”.

Rawson says the moral of the story is to check the zoning rules that apply to your street before you buy – and if the loss of a view will be distressing to you, consider buying elsewhere or at the very least, be aware of the risk that you are taking.

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