Answer to a question from a reader

Our neighbours say that the land we live on is theirs. What can we do?

The short answer

You can ask a community organisation for help to come to an agreement with your neighbours.

The whole question

My father has a place at an informal settlement. We've stayed here for about 20 years and now we've also built a shop on the land. However, our neighbours are saying that land is theirs, after we completed the shop. What can we do?

The long answer

Perhaps the first question to ask is if there is a boundary that you and your neighbours have agreed on for the last 20 years? In other words, where have you agreed is the dividing line between your place and theirs? Do you have street numbers? 

Is there a community forum or a residents’ committee or any kind of leadership in the community that you can ask to sit down with you and the neighbours to mediate the dispute? If there is no residents’ committee perhaps there are leaders in the church that you could ask to help sort out the problem with your neighbour?

If the municipality has an agreement with the residents of your informal settlement, perhaps you can ask them to help? Although informal settlements are most often neglected by municipalities, there is a programme called the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP) which says that municipalities should be upgrading the places where people are actually living rather than moving them out. You could ask the municipality to support you in upgrading your informal settlement by the building of your shop. 

But in the end it probably comes down to the community organisations helping you to sit down with the neighbours and come to an agreement. As your family has lived there for 20 years, the community leadership will know you and hopefully be prepared to help sort out the dispute. 

Answered on July 15, 2020, 3:28 p.m.

See more questions and answers

Please note. We are not lawyers or financial advisors. We do our best to make the answers accurate, but we cannot accept any legal liability if there are errors.