MY NEIGHBOUR’S NOISE IS A NUISANCE

So it’s the third night this week you can’t sleep because your new neighbour seems to enjoy playing loud rock music with his band late at night. Normally you wouldn’t mind. However, being kept up till 2am every morning is affecting your productivity at work. You talk with your neighbour, but he doesn’t seem to see a problem. What now?

If a neighbour has a birthday party or is celebrating the festive season, then their behaviour would be considered reasonable. However, if the behaviour of a neighbour has become disruptive or abnormal to the extent that it affects your ability to enjoy your property, then the law supports your concern.

What does the law say about loud neighbours?

There are Noise Control Regulations under the Environment Conservation Act (Act 73 1989). These regulations clearly state that no person (including your neighbour) is allowed to:

Operate or play a radio, television, drum, musical instrument, sound amplifier, loud speaker system or similar device that produces, reproduces or amplifies sound, or allow it to be operated or played so as to cause a noise nuisance.

The regulations also give local authorities (i.e. your municipality) the ability to enter premises without prior notice, on condition it’s at a reasonable time of the day. This would be to inspect the premises and take any action if necessary.

However, before you run off to sue your neighbour it must first be considered whether or not the noise they are producing is reasonable or unreasonable. If you live in a congested city, for instance, noise pollution is common, but a residential area is expected to be quieter.

What makes your neighbour a nuisance?

There are several factors that determine if a neighbour is a “nuisance”. Some of them include:

  1. Excessive loud noise.
  2. Bad odours.
  3. Constant movement of inhabitants.
  4. Smoke, gas or fumes.

However, as mentioned earlier, it’s important to recognise the circumstance of the noise or disruption. Living in a residential area with rowdy neighbours hosting consistently late parties could be considered a nuisance. When judging the actions of your neighbour you should consider the following:

  1. Whether it is temporary or over a long period.
  2. Where the property is situated.

If it’s the festive season, then a lot of festive music and many guests is considered normal. In circumstances such as that it may just be better for you to let it go and wait for the festive season to pass. Being overly sensitive and irritable is not a reason to sue someone.

What can you do?

The first step of any neighbourly dispute should be to approach your neighbour and ask them to stop what’s causing the nuisance, such as telling them to turn down the music. Matters that can’t be resolved peacefully can be brought to a court and an interdict can be obtained against the neighbour.  Legal advice is always beneficial when pursuing legal action so as to determine whether your complaint is valid or whether you’re just too sensitive.

An interdict is a court order that will command the neighbour to stop doing whatever is the cause of the nuisance. The nuisance causing neighbour can also be sued for any damages caused from the nuisance, such as broken property or health problems.

Reference:

Anderson, AM. Dodd, A. Roos, MC. 2012. “Everyone’s Guide to South African Law. Third Edition”. Zebra Press.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

AN EX-SPOUSE REFUSING TO PAY MAINTENANCE?

If a couple has gotten divorced and they have a child, then it’s the responsibility of both parents to support the child. The duty to pay maintenance cannot be avoided, regardless of either parents’ situation. If one parent refuses to pay maintenance, then the other parent can go to a court and make a claim. Being a single parent doesn’t mean being the only one to contribute to maintenance.

What should I do about it?

To deal with a spouse who refuses to pay maintenance you would first need to inform the maintenance officer. The maintenance officer can apply to the court for:

  1. A warrant of execution;
  2. An attachment order against the defaulter’s salary;
  3. An order to attach any debts; and
  4. A criminal prosecution.

Does the non-paying parent have a defence?

The only defence that a parent could have for not paying maintenance is having a lack of income. However, if the parent is unwilling to work, such as laziness, then this will not count as a defence. Failure to pay maintenance is taken very serious, guilty parents won’t get much sympathy from the court or others. If the parent is capable of working, then they will be expected to pay maintenance.

But I can’t find my ex-spouse?

Non-paying parents may think that they’re being clever by changing their address and not notifying the court. This is considered a criminal offence, and will result in punishment. Fortunately, it’s not the responsibility of the single parent to find anyone. A maintenance investigator will track down and find a non-paying parent.

How to claim maintenance

If you want someone to pay maintenance or believe that they are not paying the proper amount, then you can follow these steps at your local magistrate’s court. Remember to go the court in the district where you live.

  1. Go to the court and complete the form “Application for a maintenance order (J101)”.
  2. Also submit proof of your monthly income and expenses.
  3. A date will be set on which you and the respondent (the person whom you wish to pay maintenance) must go to the court.
  4. A maintenance officer and an investigator will investigate your claim and look into your circumstances.
  5. The court will serve a summons on the respondent.
  6. The respondent then has to either agree to pay the maintenance, or challenge the matter in court.

If found liable to pay maintenance

If the court finds someone liable for paying maintenance, it will make an order for the amount of maintenance to be paid. The court will also determine when and how the payments must be made. There are several ways the payments could be made. The court can order that the maintenance be paid at the local magistrate’s office or that the amount to be paid into the bank account chosen by the person claiming. The payments could also just be made directing to them. According to the new Maintenance Act (1998), an employer can deduct payments from an employee’s salary, if they’re liable for paying maintenance.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

SHOULD I PLAN MY ESTATE AS A YOUNG ADULT?

It is very important for you to plan your estate, which could include a living will, a last will and a living trust. This can help families prepare for difficult times when you are no longer around to assist or advise them. Our lives get busier and more complicated by the day, so estate planning for young and old becomes increasingly important. Young people should consider preparing certain estate planning documents, and in particular financial powers of attorney and living wills.

At the age of 18 a young man or woman officially becomes an adult in the eyes of the world. This means that you are entitled to make important financial, legal or health decisions about your lives. But what if something happens and you are unable to make these decisions at a critical time? Such situations can range from a small inconvenience to a life-threatening crisis, but if your estate is in order, it can speak on your behalf.

Financial power of attorney

A financial power of attorney allows you to appoint someone you trust, like another family member, to make financial decisions on your behalf. This document can be activated when you are incapacitated or right after it has been signed, and it will remain effective until you can resume charge of your own decisions again.

A financial durable power of attorney will allow the appointed person to handle important legal and financial matters on behalf of the grantor. In the case of a business or financial situation which involves the young adult, such as a passport or car registration renewal, it is convenient for the power of attorney to act on his/her behalf if they cannot tend to the problem. This arrangement may come in handy when there is a legal situation which requires quick action and the young adult is unable to attend. Families with a disabled family member can also benefit from the security of a power of attorney.

Living will

A living will enables you to state specific medical wishes if you are alive, but unable to communicate them. Artificial life support in the case of a coma or terminal illness is an issue often discussed in such a document. Preferences regarding administering of pain medication, artificial nutrition and other treatments can be dictated in this document.

The Terry Shaivo case shows what can happen if this document is not in place. The legal battle between her husband, family and state of Florida lasted for years before she was granted her wish and taken off life support.

Health care power of attorney

With this type of power of attorney, you give someone else the power to make health decisions on your behalf. These decisions regarding serious health and emotional crises will be made based on instructions which you have given to your power of attorney beforehand. Sometimes a living will is combined with a health care power of attorney, because both of these can be revoked, i.e. it can be cancelled at any time by destroying it, communicating your wishes to your doctor, writing a letter regarding the cancellation or by creating a new living will and health care power of attorney, indicating that the new will revokes all the previous ones.

Start the conversation

Every family’s legal needs are different, so perhaps you should take the first step in being prepared for the worst. Remember that every time your family composition changes, like when a child is born, you need to adapt your will to include them. Start the process and be prepared.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice.  Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

MANAGING DISPUTES OVER A DECEASED RELATIVE’S ESTATE

If someone leaves a sizeable estate behind, it may cause conflict among the possible heirs. The help of an attorney, when settling an estate after a death, can avoid unnecessary troubles.

The Administration of Estates Act, 1965, determines what must happen with an estate after a person’s death. There are certain steps that should be taken to ensure the process is legal. However, if the estate is worth a lot of money or the deceased has children, then it is a good idea to seek the assistance of an attorney, as family disputes and debts of the deceased can be confusing. In order to do this an executor will be appointed to act on behalf of the estate.

Finding the will of a deceased relative

If the deceased person left a will the first thing to do is find it. If they did not tell you beforehand where their will was, you can try calling the probate court in their district or the office of the Master of the High Court to check if they have a copy of the will. Other places to call would be the deceased’s life insurance company, bank or lawyer. Otherwise, the deceased might have left a copy of it somewhere secure in their home.

Who is the executor?

An executor is the person appointed to handle the process of settling the estate. The executor will either be mentioned in the will of the deceased or appointed by the Master of the High Court. The Master will ultimately decide who will take the role of executor. If the chosen executor doesn’t know how to handle the estate or is unfamiliar with the legal procedure, he or she can go to a lawyer for help. Once the executor has been chosen, the Master will give them “Letters of Executorship”, which will give only them the authority to handle the estate.

What does the executor need to do?

The executor has several responsibilities such as arranging the valuation of the estate’s property and assets. They will also be responsible for contacting and dealing with all the beneficiaries.

Some other responsibilities of the executor include:

  • Arranging provisional payments for the family’s immediate needs.
  • Opening a bank account for the estate and depositing the estates money in it.
  • Paying all the necessary estate duties.

It’s important that any person who wants to act on behalf of the deceased person’s estate have the Letters of Executorship. If not, their actions would be considered illegal. This also applies to the spouse of the deceased person. This eliminates the possibility of several different family members trying to influence the estate’s dealings. The executor will also decide how the assets will be divided between the heirs and if any or all assets need to be sold. If a will is in place the executor will base his/her decisions on it.

Eventually, the executor will prepare a liquidation and distribution account. This would include what they intend to do with all the assets left after expenses. This account would be delivered to the Master, who will check to see if the executor’s actions reflect the will of the deceased and that all legal requirements have been fulfilled.

Important things to keep in mind?

The Master of the High Court should be notified of the deceased person’s estate not later than 14 days after the death. According to the Department of Justice, the death of anyone who owned property in South Africa must be reported to the Master, whether or not they died in the country.

All estates that exceed R50 000 should be reported to the Master of the High Court directly because magistrate’s offices have limited jurisdiction. If reported to the magistrate’s office, estates will usually be referred to the Master.

References

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. 2012. “Reporting the estate of the deceased”. Accessed from: http://www.justice.gov.za/services/report-estate.html/ on 11/05/2016.

Administration of Estates Act 66 of 1965. Accessed from: http://www.justice.gov.za/ on 11/05/2016.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).