More and more households have to share a driveway with one or more neighbours, for example in a unit title complex or cross lease situation. Ideally we would be considerate when using shared property such as a driveway, so that we don’t inconvenience the other people who share it with us.
Unfortunately this isn’t always what happens - we get a lot of people coming to us with problems relating to shared driveways, for example:
- a neighbour has visitors who frequently park on the shared driveway so that access is blocked for the other people sharing the driveway
- a neighbour always places their rubbish bin, boat or other objects on the shared driveway so that other users can’t get through to their own properties
- a neighbour and joint owner of the driveway refuses to pay their share of the costs of repairing or maintaining the driveway
When there’s a problem with the use of a shared driveway, as for most neighbourhood problems it’s always it’s best to start by discussing it with the neighbour.
We don’t recommend simply getting your neighbour’s vehicle (or other object which is blocking your access) towed away without their consent because your exact rights can vary depending on the title of the property.
If you aren’t able to reach a satisfactory solution through discussions, your next step will depend on the situation:
- If you are a tenant your best option is to ask your landlord or property manager to sort it out. If your neighbour is a tenant, it’s a good idea to get in touch with their landlord or property manager. If you or your neighbour is a Housing New Zealand (HNZ) tenant you can contact HNZ on 0800 801 601.
- If you and your neighbour are living in a unit title development, you can complain to the body corporate which governs the units. The body corporate will have rules about how unit owners deal with each other and how common areas should be used.
- For other situations, you can try mediation and / or seek legal advice. Both processes will cost you money, but mediation can help both parties to resolve the dispute amicably while taking the matter to court will probably be much more expensive and damage any good relations you and your neighbour may have had until now.
Knowing your rights
It will help you to be clear on your rights, and these will depend on what kind of title is on the property:
Vehicular Right of Way / Easement – this grants you the right to use the driveway to access your property (or the right of the other party to use it to access their property), and also determines both parties’ obligations regarding maintenance and repairs of the driveway. Check your Certificate of Title for this.
Access Lot – if you live in a subdivision whereby you share a driveway with other lot owners, then you probably have a share in the access lot (a separate part of the subdivision which allows you to reach your property). As the owner of one of the lots you have the right to pass and re-pass over the access lot. This will be on your Certificate of Title if it applies to you.
Cross lease - if you own a cross-leased property, the driveway you share with the other owners on the cross lease is called a “common area”. The use of the common area is governed under the cross lease, which is usually that the owners must not obstruct the common area in any way. It will state on your Certificate of Title whether this applies to you.
Body Corporate - if you own an apartment within a body corporate, there will likely be a “common area” which allows you to access your property, i.e. a driveway. You’ll need to check the body corporate rules about how the common area may be used.
You can always contact your local CAB to help you work out what your options are.