– May 11, 2023

The neighbour is building

About 15,000 new residential buildings are built in Switzerland every year. This raises many questions and may also cause trouble, especially for those who live directly next to the construction site.

Unfortunately, we cannot offer you general answers on what to do in such a situation. This is because building regulations vary from canton to canton – and possibly even from municipality to municipality – and building projects can be very individual. In the following, however, we try to answer a few typical questions so that a building project does not become an even greater burden.

Rights of the builder

Once a building project has been approved and the requirements and conditions of a building permit have been complied with by the developer, the rights of the affected neighbour are severely restricted. To prevent this from happening, an objection to the building project must be lodged in due time, i.e. during the public display period. After this period, the affected neighbours can usually no longer do anything about most of the consequences, such as a reduction in the value of their own property.

Some regulations, such as those concerning the distance from the boundary to surrounding properties, may not even have to be observed if the neighbour concerned has agreed to this (e.g. right to build closer).

Construction work causes emissions. As long as they do not become excessive, disturbances caused by noise and other construction emissions must be accepted. On the other hand, the neighbouring property may not be driven on without the owner’s consent. In the absence of consent and an alternative option, this right must be obtained from the court. In any case, the affected neighbours have the right to compensation.

What is not permitted

If neighbours are of the opinion that the building permit violates applicable law and they have participated in the permit procedure, they can challenge the building permit. To be on the safe side, however, we recommend that you first seek the advice of a lawyer so that avoidable costs of an appeal do not arise in the first place. If the building permit itself is not complied with, the municipality can issue a building stop and the builder must expect a fine.

If the adjacent buildings suffer damage as a result of the construction project, the builder must repair them or at least bear the costs of repair. It is therefore advisable to take out builder’s liability insurance to cover any damage. However, the neighbour concerned must prove the connection between the damage and the construction site. For this reason, it is strongly recommended to have a crack report drawn up before starting construction work. This will clarify the condition of the building so that it can be proven later which damage was already present before the start of construction and which may only have been caused by the construction project itself. When drawing up the crack report, the involvement of the construction management, the affected neighbours and a construction expert is highly recommended. Not only the project, but also the financing and the person commissioned should be clarified in advance so that everything runs smoothly.

However, if the builder refuses to record a crack protocol, unfortunately nothing can be done about it. If this is the case, however, an official crack report can be applied for, which has full probative value even without the neighbour’s signature. The financing, however, then remains the sole responsibility of the requesting party. But even this usually has a less drastic effect when one considers the damage to the property and how much trouble and costs a damage suit could entail.

If you have any questions regarding building law, our lawyers will be happy to advise you.