Notes for Owners and Neighbours: Closing Down the Guesthouse Next Door
“You can be a good neighbour only if you have good neighbours” (Howard E. Koch, playwright)
You decide – for whatever reason - that your neighbour’s new guesthouse is definitely not first prize in your sleepy and peaceful suburb, so you investigate.
You find out that the local municipal zoning scheme doesn’t allow anyone to trade as a guesthouse without a special departure permit, and that your neighbour doesn’t have one.
What are your rights and what must you prove to get assistance from our courts? Must you prove, for example, that you have suffered some form of damage or is it enough to prove only the lack of a permit?
The recent High Court decision of Du Toit N.O. and Others v Coenoe 90 CC and Others (1584/2017)  ZAFSHC 126 illustrates, and would-be guesthouse owners as well as their neighbours should take note.
Shattering the peace - wild parties and nuisance guests
Opening a guesthouse? It boils down to this …
Each municipality will have its own bye-laws in regard to exactly what is and what isn’t allowed in each zoning category. Where a formal municipal permit is required to operate a guesthouse, that permit must be applied for and must be granted before the business opens. Otherwise your neighbours can ask a court to close down you down, proving nothing more than the lack of a required permit.
First prize is always to negotiate all your neighbours onto your side from day one, and in any event it’s worth getting legal help for your permit application to ensure your position is unassailable.
And a final note for suffering neighbours
Stand up for your rights, although of course even if you are 100% in the right, going to war with your neighbours should be the very last resort – there are no winners in a fight like that. But if a polite request to “please close your doors” or “please stop disrupting our peace” doesn’t help, seek legal assistance immediately.
P.S. What about Airbnb?
There are grey areas around how zoning restrictions apply to short-term lets in South Africa, and municipalities all have their own requirements for bed and breakfast and other types of guest accommodation. Take advice on what your local council’s requirements and limitations are.
Jack Crook, Director at DotNews, is well known to law firms as the author of LawDotNews since 2005. Jack’s legal qualifications (LLB Lond and LLB Rhod) are supplemented by many years of practical experience in law, in marketing his own firm, and in helping other small and medium sized professional firms to prosper by using simple, low-cost, effective marketing strategies.
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