My neighbour is always parking on our shared driveway or leaving their rubbish bin on it. What are my rights?
What your rights are will depend on what kind of title is on the property (see below), but generally a shared driveway should remain unobstructed.
Vehicular Right of Way / Easement
There may be an easement (or right of way) registered against the Certificate of Title to the property which grants you, or your neighbour, the right to use the driveway and outlines your obligations when it comes to maintenance of the driveway.
If this is the case, then your rights and obligations are determined by:
If your neighbour is continuously obstructing your use of the driveway by parking their car on the driveway, they may be in breach of the implied rights and/or the easement. However, if your neighbour’s car being parked on the shared driveway is inconvenient, but does not prevent you from accessing your property, your neighbour may not be in breach of the terms of the easement.
If you live in a subdivision where you share a driveway with other owners, then you probably have a share in the access lot (a separate part of the subdivision which allows you to reach your property). If you are not sure whether the driveway you share with your neighbour is an access lot, have a look at your Certificate of Title. It may show that you own a share of the access lot (e.g. a third share if there are three owners using the driveway).
As the owner of one of the lots, you have the right to use the access lot to get to and from your property. The same implied rights of the Property Law Act 2007 apply here .
If you own a cross-leased property, the driveway you share with the other owners on the cross-lease will be called a “common area”. The use of the common area is governed under the cross-lease so you should check the terms of that. Usually the owners must not obstruct the common area in any way, so parking on a common area may be a breach of the terms of the cross-lease.
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. The body corporate rules will govern the use of the common area so it’s a good idea to check what these say.
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What can I do to resolve a problem my neighbour and I have over our shared driveway?
In general, it’s best to start with trying to sort it out amicably with your neighbour. If this isn’t successful, then:
- 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 development. 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. 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.
You should seek legal advice before taking any other action, such as getting the car towed away, because your rights can vary depending on the title of the property (see above). If you can’t afford a lawyer, your local CAB may be able to help you find a free legal service.
If you do seek legal advice, it will help your lawyer if you can tell them what sort of title your home is on.
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Is it okay to get my neighbour’s car towed if it’s always obstructing my access to my home?
If a car that is obstructing your access is parked on council-owned property (e.g. on the road but in front of your driveway) then you could contact your local council – who can then arrange for it to be towed away.
However, it is different if the car is parked on a shared driveway on private property.
In this situation getting your neighbour’s car towed is a risky course of action and not usually advisable. If you don’t give your neighbour sufficient warning, for example, they could make a claim against you for trespassing on their property (i.e. their car).
Even if you do give your neighbour plenty of warning, actually towing the car may only worsen the relationship between you and your neighbour. The result might be not what you wanted. More about this is on our Clamping and towing page.
It’s best to speak to your neighbour first about the issue, to see if an amicable solution can be reached. If the problem is not resolved in this way, check what kind of shared driveway you are using so that you know what your rights are in this situation, and seek legal advice.
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I share a driveway with two other houses, but I never use it. Do I still have to pay a third of the cost of repairing it?
Generally, when a driveway gives access to two or more properties, then the responsibility for its maintenance is shared jointly by the owners of those properties. If there is an easement document registered on your property’s Certificate of Title, it may specify how the responsibility for maintenance of the driveway is shared. More about easements is in our first question and answer.
More information about your rights and obligations regarding shared costs between neighbours is on our Fences & Boundaries page.