Letting the light shine - the rules and rightsTHE MINISTER for Justice is reported to be considering legislation that will entitle homeowners to adequate light. So, what are the current rights of people living in the shadow of high trees and shrubs?
Q What is the minimum/maximum distance that a neighbour can plant trees with regard to a habitable structure?
A There is no minimum/maximum distance that a neighbour can plant trees close to a habitable structure. Unfortunately this is one of the principal grievances between neighbours. It mainly results from a lack of knowledge regarding the chosen tree species and its ultimate height and canopy spread. People plant the wrong tree in the wrong place instead of the right tree in the right place.
For example, there is no point in planting an oak tree in an average suburban garden as in time it will outgrow its living space, putting pressure on the tree itself and causing disputes between neighbours.
Q Is there a right to a view?
A There are no specific guidelines or regulations in terms of a right to a view. The planning legislation stipulates that only views and prospects that are protected cannot not be detracted from but this generally applies to the built environment. As far as trees are concerned, there are no specific guidelines. It goes back to proper tree selection – that is, knowing what you are planting.
Q What are the regulations for a “right to light”?
A Again, the planning guidelines deal with this issue in the built environment,however in Ireland there are no specific guidelines/
regulations when it comes to the right to light. Under the new proposed legislation, high trees and shrubs that overshadow an adjoining garden would be actionable in the courts.
In the civil courts there may be case law dealing with disputes between neighbours, where someone has enjoyed uninterrupted light for a period of time then a neighbour plants a fast growing hedge which eventually blocks the light, however there are no specific regulations dealing with this. If an overhanging limb is blocking light then the homeowner is allowed to prune the overhanging limb back to the boundary.
The overhang can only be cut back from ground level. The tree cannot be climbed or mechanical lifts used, the tree cannot be de-stabilised in any way and the health of the tree cannot be compromised.
Before removing any overhanging limbs it is best to consult with the tree owner.
Q Where branches overhang a neighbour’s property, is it the responsibility of the neighbour to cut back the branches and maintain the trees?
A Where branches from a neighbours tree overhang into another property, the overhang can be cut back to the boundary wall and all branches must be returned to the tree owner. Again, it is best to consult with the tree owner before taking action.