The ideal community is one where neighbours not only respect each other, but also are supportive and are willing to help each other.
But what if your good neighbourliness is abused by your neighbour and not reciprocated? Those who have watched the “Neighbours from Hell” TV programs will have seen a range of matters that can arise, but the four main areas where problems are likely to occur are:
1. Excessive noise, particularly at night
2. Health hazards like cockroaches and fleas from people keeping waste material and junk in their properties, allowing mosquitos to breed from unclean ponds and the like
3. Inadequate fences
4. Nuisance trees
The first two come under council (KCDC) jurisdiction: all you need to do is ring them and describe the problem and they will send out an officer to investigate.
The latter two, if they involve private property, are civil matters which you need to deal with yourself. But don’t run off to a lawyer: they will likely charge you excessive fees for something you can easily handle.
The Fencing Act sets out the legal procedure to replace an inadequate fence and the forms you need to use. Basically it assumes that the parties will share the cost of one equally and in Kapiti provided it does not exceed 2 metres in height, doesn’t require council consent. Get a quote from a contractor for a fence that will meet your needs and include it with your notice. If the other party proposes something simpler (or more elaborate) you will need to negotiate. If the other party rejects doing anything completely, then you will need to take it to the Disputes Tribunal – this will cost you $45, but should achieve what you want.
Trees are more complicated: and unfortunately at present the Disputes Tribunal does not have the jurisdiction to handle an application under the Property Law Act. Sections 333-336 of this Act deal with trees. An application has to be filed in the District Court and involves a filing fee of at present $200. However, it is likely that this cost will be awarded back to you if you are successful. The application needs to be accompanied by an affidavit from you. The Justice Dept has details for self-represented parties on its website and a Community Law Centre can help with other technicalities.
Contents of your affidavit:
A. Identify accurately the location; GPS coordinates (on your iPhone or on Google maps) and the species: a competent garden centre owner should be able to do this from a photo.
B. If it’s a native and over 4 metres in height, check with the council if it is protected under the District Plan. If it is then you will need council permission first before anything can be done. In a domestic situation, a council officer may do this without your needing to apply for Resource Consent.
C. Pictures of the tree and the site, and the basis for your wanting it reduced or removed as per the wordings in the Act. The Act assumes that you will pay the arborist’s fees unless there is good reason otherwise.
Be aware, however, that the Act is not a one-way street in favour of an applicant: a benefit for the applicant must clearly exceed a detriment to the other party: you will need to address this.
As this is basically a common sense observation issue, the judge will want some independent statement attached to your affidavit from someone like a professional landscaper; a letter from such will do.