A dispute over extensions to a boundary wall has divided two Milnerton neighbours.
Geoff and Francoise Liang have accused their neighbour, Michael Bagraim, a DA member of Parliament and advocate who founded Bagraim’s Attorneys, a law firm which offers specialist services in labour law, of acting in bad faith when he started extending on their boundary wall without municipal approval.
Not only did he not have the required plans, says Mr Liang, but a section of their electric fencing was also removed during the building leaving them fearing for their safety.
But Mr Bagraim, who rents out his house, claims his tenant asked for an extension “by two bricks for privacy” and that he saw no problem with it. “I didn’t know that that would require plans,” said Mr Bagraim. He added that he had had the bricks removed after an inspector had asked him to.
But photos of the extensions before they were demolished show builders had built seven rows of bricks and were busy with an eighth row.
Mr Liang said the tenant had admitted to him and his wife before building had started that there was no approval for the extension.
“We had concerns that the boundary wall may not be able to take the weight of the extra bricks, and we spoke to Mr Bagraim about this. We expressed all our concerns but he just continued,” said Mr Liang.
He said he had felt “intimidated” to switch off his electric fence and had feared for the safety of the builder who had started building under the fence while it was still live.
Ms Liang got a building inspector to inspect the wall extension and, because the wall was on their property, the Liangs were served with a notice to remove it. They informed Mr Bagraim about this and he complied.
Mr Bagraim said that after the bricks had been removed, he had considered getting plans approved to add to the wall, but his builder “upon inspection” had found there was no foundation at all and that “the entire wall is precarious”.
“This meant that the wall had to be removed and that a foundation had to be built as the wall currently is dangerous. This danger has been pointed out to the City inspectorate and to the Liangs, but no one has done anything about it,” said Mr Bagraim.
Mayco member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt, has confirmed that the wall built by the Liangs in 2012 is illegal.
Mr Liang said they had repaired and reinforced the old boundary wall in 2012 out of their own pockets and that Mr Bagraim and his wife had been happy about it.
“The fact remains that Mr Bagraim has built illegally on the boundary wall. He did this without our consent and while our electric fencing was still live,” said Mr Liang.
What was worse, he added, was the damage left after the bricks were removed. Pieces of cement and rubble lay on Mr Liang’s side of the wall and the top of the wall still has a layer of cement with the bricks exposed beneath it.
“We strongly feel that he needs to repair the damages to the wall and pay for reconnection of our electric fence. He also needs to clean up the mess on our side of the wall,” said Ms Liang.
The Liangs have taken Mr Bagraim to the small claims court, demanding payment of just under R10 000 to refurbish the wall, remove the rubble and reinstall the electric fence.
But Mr Bagraim said, “It would be folly to try and put electric fencing on a precarious wall.
“It looks like I’m going to have to issue a summons in due course for the cost of removing the entire wall if they don’t do so. It is unpleasant to have a dispute with neighbours, but they don’t seem to want to hear me that the wall has no foundation at all,” he said.
Mr Liang said he and his wife wanted an apology from Mr Bagraim and an explanation as to why he was “not taking accountability for his unauthorised extension which he eventually had to take down”.