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Is it alright and legal to place your sinampay on your neighbor's fence? Lawyers weigh in

By NICK GARCIA Published Jul 12, 2023 4:03 pm

Filipinos will always be known for having tight-knit communties, so much so that neighbors can be deemed as extended families. But is it alright—and legal—when the neighbor puts their sinampay on another house's fence, and while they're at it, place vegetables?

Author Jhoanna Lynn Cruz on Twitter shared a photo of her house's metal fence, in which three towels were on display. A bunch of gabi leaves can also be seen on the side. "My neighbors decided that my new fence was perfect for hanging their laundry & gabi leaves. Amazing," Cruz wrote. "The sense of entitlement. Or is it community?"

She noted that she spent P92,000 on her fence, and that she already complained through their subdivision's group chat. "Sana andun ang salarin. Baka sila pa ang galit sa akin," she said.

She also wondered whether it's "Davao culture" that she, originally someone from Manila, doesn't know of. "Mali ba ako? Ok ba ito sa mga Davaoeño? It’s not even a shared fence," she said.

Her tweet got over 10,400 likes, 1,300 quotes, and 360 retweets to date.

Many users in the replies and quote tweets sympathized with Cruz.

"If the fence is entirely within her property and she paid for all the expenses for its construction, then it's her private property," one user said.

Another user, meanwhile, said it isn't required for one to be friends with their neighbors, and Cruz has every right to deal with her situation as she pleases as the neighbor didn't ask for permission.

"People must stop living in fantasy world. It is time to face the reality," the user said.

One user, however, said that while it's indeed Cruz's fence, she could've first talked to her neighbors "in a kind and calm manner" before "rambling on social media and complaining through the subdivision GC."

What does the law say about incidents like this?

Atty. Mae Diane Azores, who topped the 2019 Bar, told PhilSTAR L!fe that Cruz, as the owner of the fence, has every right to exclusively enjoy it.

Article 430 of the Civil Code states that every owner may enclose or fence his land or tenements by means of walls, ditches, live or dead hedges, or by any other means without detriment to servitudes constituted thereon.

As owner, they may exclude any person from the enjoyment and disposal thereof according to Article 429: "For this purpose, he may use such force as may be reasonably necessary to repel or prevent an actual or threatened unlawful physical invasion or usurpation of his property."

Exclusivity and exclusion are okay, as long as there are no acts that injure the rights of a third person, as Article 431 states.

Atty. Janine Blaize Caniw told L!fe that the act may also constitute nuisance, which the Civil Code defines as an act, omission, establishment, business, condition of property, or anything else which may endanger health, offend the senses, shock morality, cause obstruction, or impair property use. Nuisance can be private or public according to the law.

In dealing with such situations, Caniw said that if it especially happened only once, the owner may just request the concerned individual to stop doing it again. The issue may be settled through "alternative dispute resolution" with the help of the subdivision management.

"After ng notice sa kanila to stop doing it, at paulit-ulit nilang ginagawa with the intention of annoying the owner, pwede nang magfile ng unjust vexation case," she added.

The Supreme Court defines unjust vexation as any human conduct, without violence, that unjustly annoys an innocent person. Penalty includes imprisonment of one to six months and/or a fine from P500 to P5,000.

It's also handy for owners to have closed circuit television or CCTV units, Caniw said, as well as document the incidents through photos and videos—dates and times included.

    Azores said one may also be entitled to seek damages, especially if the act of placing caused any kind of damage to the fence.

    In another situation regarding a neighbor's property being within one's estate except that it's apparently beneficial, i.e., fruits from a neighbor's tree already within reach, it's one of the Ten Commandments that applies: Thou shalt not steal.

    The owner, however, may demand the neighbor to have the branches cut, Aniw noted.

    "However, the law provides that if the fruits naturally fall upon your land, then you now become the owner of those fruits," Azores added.

    Cruz, meanwhile, thanked followers for the comfort, assurance, and advice after her tweet has gone viral.