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Responsibility for construction works affecting adjacent houses

Ownership and other rights to property are an important content of civil law. Other rights to property are not absolute and can also be limited according to the principle of limitation of human rights and civil rights in the Vietnamese Constitution 2013. Limitations of these rights are often imposed when referring to rights to adjacent immovable property, such as rights arising when subjects build buildings adjacent to each other. In the following article, Viet An Law will summarize legal regulations related to responsibility for construction works affecting adjacent houses according to current Vietnamese law.

Legal basis

  • Civil Code 2015;
  • Decree 16/2022/ND-CP stipulating penalties for administrative violations in construction;

Some related concepts

What are other rights to property?

Other rights to property arise when one subject has the right to directly hold and control property owned by another subject. Other rights to the property include:

  • Rights to adjacent immovable property;
  • Usufruct rights;
  • Surface rights.

Rights to adjacent immovable property

Rights over adjacent immovable property are rights to be exercised on an immovable property (hereinafter referred to as obliged immovable property) to serve the exploitation of another immovable property under the ownership of another person (hereinafter referred to as entitled immovable property). The basis for determining this right is natural terrain, as prescribed by law, agreement, or will.

As a simple example, when an owner has real property located inside and surrounded by other owners’ properties with no or insufficient access to a public road, the right to adjacent immovable property will arise based on natural terrain and according to the provisions of law. In this case, the Civil Code calls that right “right of passage” (Article 254), according to which the holder of the right of passage has the right to request one of the owners of adjacent immoveable properties to provide it with a passage to a public road on their land. Along with this right, the right holder has the obligation to compensate the owner of the immovable property subject to the right, unless otherwise agreed.

Rights to adjacent immovable property always come with compensation obligations

The principle “if damage is caused, compensation must be made” also applies in the case of rights to adjacent immovable property. Regulations from Article 252 to Article 255 on cases of rights to immovable property all regulate this principle.

Within the scope of this article, Viet An Law focuses on clarifying the responsibilities of the entity constructing the project that affects the immovable property adjacent to that project. In this case, what rights and obligations does the new construction entity have towards the owner or person with other rights to the adjacent immovable property?

Obligations of the construction entity

In Article 174 of the 2015 Civil Code, there is a regulation on the obligation to respect construction rules as follows:

Article 174. Obligation to respect construction rules

When constructing a project, the owners and holders of other property-related rights must comply with the law on construction, to ensure safety. It may not build beyond the height and distance specified by the law on construction and infringes the legitimate rights and interests of owners of adjoining and surrounding immovable properties.

The law has placed a limit on construction entities in exercising their rights to immovable property. Illegal construction such as building more than the number of floors, building close to a wall blocking the door of an adjacent house, or installing a drainage system that overflows onto another owner’s immovable property are acts that violate the rights and interests of other owners’ legal rights according to the provisions of law.

Regarding rainwater and wastewater drainage, the Civil Code also sets out obligations for construction entities as follows:

“Article 250. Obligation of owners relating to draining of rainwater

An owner of a house or construction works must install water drain pipes in order that the rainwater from its roof does not run onto any adjoining immovable properties.

Article 251. Obligation of owners relating to draining of wastewater

An owner of a house or construction work must install underground drains or water drainage channels to discharge wastewater to the prescribed location in order that the waste water does not run and spill onto any adjoining immoveable properties or onto public streets or public places.”

Thus, this content has concretized the principled provisions set out in Article 174 above. Although there are regulations on the right to supply and drain water through the adjacent immovable property in the form of a right to adjacent immovable property for the construction entity, these entities cannot affect the legitimate rights and interests of owners and other rights holders over adjacent and surrounding immovable property assets.

To put it simply, rights to adjacent immovable property allow the owner to have derivative rights to another owner’s immovable property to use for his or her legitimate rights and interests. Then implicitly imposes an obligation on the owner of the derivative rights to ensure the integrity of the rights and interests of those who have rights to the immovable property subject to the right, especially the owner of that immovable property. Infringement and causing damage will be grounds for civil compensation liability.

Liability to compensate for damages

Article 605 of the 2015 Civil Code has regulations on Compensation for damage caused by houses and other construction works as follows:

Article 605. Compensation for damage caused by houses and other construction works or buildings

An owner or a possessor of a house or another construction work, or a person to which the owner has assigned the management or use thereof, must compensate for damage if such house or construction causes damage to another person.

If the executor of the house or construction work is partly at fault that such house or construction work causes damage, he/she must jointly compensate for such damage.

Thus, the owner or person assigned to manage and use the house or other construction project must compensate for damage caused by that house or other construction project to others. When the constructor is at fault for causing damage to a house or other construction project, he or she must be responsible for compensation.

Accordingly, the Civil Code requires the owner of a project under construction to compensate in case of cracking a neighbor’s wall. If the construction worker is also at fault, he must jointly compensate. Currently, the Civil Code does not specifically stipulate the level of compensation, so the parties can agree to agree on the level of compensation, based on actual damages.

Principle of compensation for damages shall apply according to Article 585 of the Civil Code stipulates as follows:

  • The damages must be actual damages, not estimated damages or future damages.
  • Actual damages must be fully and promptly compensated.
  • The parties can agree on the level of compensation, the form of compensation, and the method of one-time or multiple compensation, unless otherwise prescribed by law.

Regulations on administrative liability for house construction causing damage to adjacent houses

In addition to the liability to compensate for damage according to civil law, acts of causing damage to property owned by others adjacent to the construction project must also be subject to administrative liability according to the provisions of the law. Specifically, based on Clause 5, Article 16, Decree 16/2022/ND-CP on violations of regulations on construction orders:

Article 16. Violation of regulations on construction order

[…]

  1. Impose penalties for organizing construction in a manner violating regulations on construction quality assurance thereby causing depression, crack, or damage to technical infrastructure or neighboring structures or causing or potentially causing neighboring structures to collapse without causing damage to the health or lives of other people as follows:
  2. a) A fine ranging from VND 30.000.000 to VND 40.000.000 shall be imposed in case of detached houses;
  3. b) A fine ranging from VND 50.000.000 to VND 60.000.000 shall be imposed on the construction of detached houses in sanctuaries, historical-cultural heritages, or other structures;
  4. c) A fine ranging from VND 80.000.000 to VND 100.000.000 shall be imposed on the construction of structures that require a feasibility study of construction investment or economic – technical report on construction investment”.

Thus, according to the provisions of Clause 5, Article 16 of Decree 16/2022/ND-CP, construction acts that cause depression, cracks or damage to technical infrastructure and neighboring works (which the parties cannot agree on) compensation according to the provisions of civil law); causing the collapse or risk of causing the collapse of neighboring structures but not causing damage to the health or life of others, a fine of from 30,000,000 VND to 40,000,000 VND will be imposed for the construction of individual houses.

Above is Viet An Law’s advice on responsibility for construction works affecting adjacent houses. If you need civil law advice or civil dispute resolution, please contact Viet An Law for the most effective support.

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