Thursday, July 30, 2009

Court asks neighbour to pay for property damage

If you are aggrieved at the damage to your property by your neighbour’s reckless constructions, then a recent court ruling holds out hope.

“It pays to be a good neighbour,” Additional District Judge (ADJ) Kamini Lau ruled some days ago, before awarding a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to complainant H N Kukreja. Kukreja had hauled to court his neighbour at Lajpat Nagar’s B-block, Uma Dhawan, and her builder Vishal Chopra, arguing that the renovation carried out at Dhawan’s home had spoilt the walls and woodwork in his basement.

The order stated: “It pays to be a good neighbour and conversely a person oblivious and unconcerned about the life and property of his immediate neighbour can be made to compensate.”

The judgment also sounded a note of caution on the irresponsible and break-neck manner in which constructions march on these days, and said a neighbour cannot escape duty towards adjoining houses.

Kukreja claimed the slipshod work next door had severely damaged his basement floor. The walls were damp, the plaster was peeling at places, the floor had developed cracks, and the doors and windows were damaged, Kukreja said in his petition.

Challenging it, Dhawan and Chopra denied the remodelling had harmed the neighbour’s property.

In their defence, they also argued that Kukreja had illegally constructed certain structures in the basement. However, a report by an executive engineer on Kukreja’s property disproved Dhawan’s claims, prompting the court to dismiss the argument.

ADJ Lau said: “In civilised society, every person owes a duty of exercising due care and caution towards the life and property of his neighbour. He is under an obligation to ensure that his individual right to enjoy his own property does not come into conflict with a similar right of his neighbour to enjoy his property as well.”

The court then asked Dhawan and Chopra to equally share the monetary penalty of Rs 2 lakh and pay it as damages to Kukreja so that he could repair his house.

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