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How to defend yourself in case of a high wall or fence?
TheCivil Code regulates the so-called neighbourhood immiseration. According to the CC, the owner of the property (i.e., including the land on which such a high thing stands) must refrain from anything that results in “waste, water, smoke, dust, gas, odour, light, shadow, noise, shocks”, etc. encroaching on the neighbour’s land to an extent that 1) is not proportionate to the local conditions and 2) substantially restricts the normal use of the land.
Such harassment can be defended against in court. However, the problem is that it is not always clear what exactly constitutes harassment that is disproportionate to local circumstances. For example, in a village, where every house has a large garden and everyone is used to having plenty of space around them, it may be unreasonable to put a high wall on the edge of a property which will, for example, shade trees on another. In the case of a satellite near Prague, where houses are crammed together side by side, it may be more common for neighbours to build high fences around their gardens to give them at least a little privacy.
Elsewhere, the Civil Code also allows one to defend oneself against a neighbour planting trees right next to the property boundary – but if I as a landowner want to defend myself, I must have a “reasonable reason” for doing so according to the CC – i.e. again, screening, restricted view, etc. The OZ also gives an indicative rule for tree spacing (but this can be amended in some cases): for trees usually growing to a height of over 3m, the permissible distance from the common property boundary is 3m and for other trees 1.5m.
Similarly (and again elsewhere), it is open to the RP to seek, on ‘reasonable’ grounds, to require a neighbour to refrain from erecting a structure on neighbouring land in close proximity to the common property boundary.
Do you need help?
Has your neighbor built or is about to build a tall fence, wall, or other structure that is now obstructing your view, shading your trees, or otherwise making your life uncomfortable? Let our lawyers advise you and find the best solution for you.
How to defend against a building that is still under construction?
If I want to build, for example, a family house, I need to have two essential things taken care of – the location of the building in the landscape and the permit for the construction itself. Normally this is dealt with by the relevant authority as part of the planning and building procedure.
In both zoning and construction proceedings, the neighbour, or the owner of the neighbouring land, is typically a party to such proceedings.
In both types of proceedings, he or she can submit so-called objections, which must be dealt with by the building authority. However, they must relate directly to how they will restrict such owner or how they will restrict his land (the Building Act states that the ownership of the property must be directly affected). If there is to be an oral hearing, then the neighbour may object up to the time of the hearing or orally during the hearing. If there is no hearing, a specific period of time shall be set for the filing of written objections. As a party, the neighbour also has the right to appeal against the planning permission or the building permit. In this way, a certain standard of neighbour’s rights is defined, which is then also applicable to other cases – e.g. in a situation where the landowner wants to apply to the authority for a change to the building during its construction.
In the event that the construction is carried out in violation of, for example, a building permit (a neighbour builds a house two storeys higher), it is possible to file a complaint with the building authority, which should then initiate proceedings to either order the removal of such a construction (or its modification) or to grant it an additional permit.
An alternative to the construction or planning procedure is to apply for planning consent or consent to carry out the notified construction project. In both cases, this is a simpler and quicker procedure.
However, in order to use these procedures, the owner who wants to build something needs the consent of the neighbours or owners of neighbouring land – in this way, the neighbour can prolong the whole building process by not allowing them to use the faster type of process
What about the fence?
Is the fence between the plots compulsory and who actually pays for it?
It is generally not compulsory to erect a fence or a partition between neighbours, but it becomes compulsory in a situation where the lack of fencing harasses neighbours or restricts their right to use the land.
Previously, the fence (and therefore the obligation to erect and maintain it) always belonged to the plot of land on the right hand side as seen from the public road. However, the way it works nowadays is simply that the fence belongs equally to both plots. You and your neighbour are therefore obliged to pay 50% of the cost of building the fence and share equally in its maintenance.
What does the neighbour need to build the fence?
A neighbour does not always need planning permission and approval to build a fence, but it must be a so-called minor construction. However, if the fence is more than two metres high, it will need planning permission and approval. However, this is not the only situation where he will have to sort out the necessary paperwork, in addition to the height of the fence:
- the land to be fenced is within the territory of Prague,
- the construction of the fence requires landscaping or earthworks,
- the fence borders publicly accessible roads or public spaces,
- the land is located in a conservation zone or area.
So, if your neighbour decides to build a high fence, but it is less than two metres high and none of the other situations listed above apply, then unfortunately the situation is more complicated for you. Otherwise, however, you can intervene in the same way as described above.
Finally, it should be stressed that conflicts around high walls, fences and buildings between neighbours can be complex. The Civil Code offers certain rules and procedures, but these depend on the specific situation and local conditions.
It is therefore important to communicate with our neighbours and try to find a solution that satisfies both parties. In case of disputes, legal action can be used, but the ideal solution is mutual agreement and respect for the rights and needs of each landowner.