Building on the plot boundary: key principles

We regularly receive questions about placing buildings on the plot boundary. For example, to build a veranda, carport, canopy or garage to be added to an existing house. In this case, the municipality often requests the neighbour's point of view. This article therefore discusses the main rules that apply when applying for a licence to build on the plot boundary.

Rule 1: Civil rights play no role when applying for a licence to build on the property boundary

When building on the plot boundary, there is often the question of whether a fee is payable for this and whether, as a neighbour, one is allowed to do this just like that. For example, because part of the wall will be on the neighbour's plot. Or, for example, because there is already an existing fence or an existing outbuilding to which one is building. Or because there is an easement or right of way on the part on which you wish to build.

However, these aspects do not come into play when applying for a permit. Not even for building on the plot boundary. In legal terms, one speaks of a permit being in rem. It is always granted subject to civil rights.

Thus, when granting the licence to build on the plot boundary, the board will not check whether you have the right to do so. They will not check whether you own the land, for instance. This plays no role when granting a permit.

Rule 2: Agreements with your neighbours are irrelevant to the board

It will also not check whether you have made the right contractual agreements with your neighbour, for example, and whether you are complying with these contractual agreements. For example, the board will not check whether you have to pay your neighbour a fee, and whether you have actually paid this fee. The board is not allowed to take this into account. They may only look at the purely town planning rules.

However, the fact that the board may not take civil rights into account when granting the licence does not mean that you should not take them into account. For example, your neighbour will still be able to enforce these rights through court proceedings. As a result, you may not be allowed to build or only in a modified form, even if you have a permit. You may also have to pay damages to your neighbour.

Rule 3: Neighbour agreement not required, but recommended

So, from a town planning point of view, in principle, you do not need permission from your neighbour to build on the plot boundary. However, the board is often obliged to seek the opinion of adjacent property owners. The application may also require a public enquiry. However, the council is not obliged to refuse the permit if one of the neighbours opposes it.

Read more about the lodging an objection to an environmental permit and the conduct of a public enquiry.

Nevertheless, it is best to check your building plans with your neighbours beforehand. A prior agreement usually makes it easier to obtain a permit. This allows you to take maximum account of your neighbours' objections in your application. During the simplified procedure, there are only limited possibilities to modify your application during the procedure. If it is refused, you will then have to go through the full procedure again.

Rule 4: Make sure you have clear plans

Therefore, if no public enquiry needs to be organised, the board is usually obliged to seek the views of adjacent property owners. The board will notify them of your permit application by letter. They can then go and see the plans at the town hall. It is advisable to work with plans that are as clear as possible. For this, it is best to work with an architect, even if this is not compulsory. This improves the clarity of the plans. You will also avoid any unjustified objections.

Note: If the adjoining owner does not agree with the way the municipality has handled his objection, he can always appeal to the province. This procedure usually takes 3 months. During this procedure, you may not use your permit. It is therefore in your interest to check your application with your neighbours beforehand and to work with plans that are as clear as possible. This way, you limit the risk of your neighbours appealing against the permit.

Find more information on the course of the appeal procedure with the province here.

Rule 5: Fences on the property boundary are exempt from permit under certain conditions

Building on the plot boundary does not always require a permit. For example, placing fences up to a certain height is free of permit under certain conditions. More information on the Placing fences on the plot boundary can be found here.

Rule 6: Take into account any subdivision regulations and municipal building regulations

Some municipalities have specific regulations for building on the plot boundary. For example, based on a subdivision permit or municipal building regulations. We regularly see that these regulations were not taken into account in applications. Although derogation options apply in certain cases, this usually results in the building permit being refused.

Read more about what you can do in case of an environmental permit refusal here.

Rule 7: Wait to carry out the works until the permit is finally granted

We often see that a permit is only applied for after works have started. Or the works are already started during the permit procedure. This presents the administration with a fait accompli. However, the administration is not obliged to take into account the fact that the construction is already there. Therefore, by already carrying out the works before you have a final permit, you run the risk of not being able to obtain a permit afterwards. Or that the building may have to be altered afterwards in order to obtain a permit.

Here you can find more information on the procedure for applying for an environmental permit and from when you can use the permit.

Do you wish to build on your plot boundary? Or do you need help applying for an environmental permit? If so, please feel free to contact on.

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