Is the construction site next door affecting your business? Know what your rights are
Enduring a big development going on next door can be a very difficult situation for a business owner. The issue becomes more complex to resolve as property owners are dealing with not one person, but a minefield of contractors, companies, and developers.
A development must be granted resource consent before undertaking significant building works, particularly in the case of large apartment or office blocks. Resource consents are publicly available so contact your local Council if you would like to read over the restrictions set down for a neighbouring development.
Each Council has specific noise limitations which specify what time noisy construction works may start in the morning, what time they must end, and what days of the week have reduced construction hours. Each development will also be issued a resource consent which will usually specify maximum decibel readings for the construction noise, and often will even include obligations to do decibel readings every so often to ensure the developers are sticking to the regulations.
Works blocking access to your shopfront
Construction works in front of your building can have a significant impact on customer access and parking. Developments as a general rule cannot utilise public land such as pavements or berms in front of other people’s private properties, however this can change if their resource consent allows such use, or if the development is being run by the Council. It always pays to carefully check the resource consent to check whether they are keeping to the confines of what has been approved.
This comes under nuisance laws and your neighbour is not entitled to have excess debris or water caused by their building works coming on to your property.
Debris coming from a construction site can often cause staff or customer vehicles to become covered in construction dust, or in the worst cases of overzealous hydro demolition, painting, and other construction activities can cause serious damage to vehicles or other property. Any damage caused by works on a neighbouring development is the developer’s responsibility and they are liable to fix it without delay.
If you are concerned the construction site is dangerous then your first step should be to document whatever is going on including taking photos if relevant, then speak to the Site Manager and head developer to ensure the activity causing danger ceases immediately. In the case of serious incidents, these should be reported to Worksafe for the record regardless of whether the underlying issue has been resolved.
A property owner owns the airspace above their property up to an undefined height. Any building works which cross over into the space above your land, including cranes and scaffolding are treated by law as being on your land and developers cannot undertake such activities without your express consent.
You cannot be unreasonable in withholding your consent to access, as your neighbour is entitled to apply to the Court under the Property Law Act to get permission to access your airspace or land temporarily. The Courts will assess whether it is reasonable and fair, while taking into account the public good of the development, to allow the developer to temporarily use your airspace or land to complete their development. The Courts will usually order a sum of money be paid to the property owner in return for use of the airspace or land, so it pays to try and come to a mutually beneficial agreement with the developer before getting the Courts involved.
The most important factor in resolving any kind of neighbour dispute is to ensure there is an open and ongoing dialogue with your neighbours. On a construction site the Site Manager is the person to talk to, however it is important to speak with the developers directly as they are the ones who hold the ultimate control and liability. It is very likely you will be asked for various favours throughout the construction period so it is important to know what your rights are and what you do and do not have to put up with.
Katie Lynch-Watson is a Barrister and Solicitor at Steindle Williams Legal specialising in the area of litigation and dispute resolution.