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Neighbour's tree height blocks our light
Q Our neighbour’s trees have blocked the light on one side of our house for many years and are now at a dangerous height. We are one bad storm away from potential large-scale damage.
When we have spoken to them about it in the past, they have always adopted the same approach, which is that if it bothers us we can feel free to cut it down.
We have had them trimmed at our expense on many occasions but cannot afford to have the largest and potentially most dangerous cut down. Where do we stand on this?
A In built-up urban areas, trees growing at excessive heights can cause a huge amount of grievance and worry to property owners. Not only can they block light from neighbouring properties but also, if not maintained correctly or inspected on a regular basis, can be a danger to public safety as there is a risk of the tree collapsing.
In Ireland, there is no legislation governing the height of trees. Recently there has been talk that the Minister for Justice is considering legislation that will entitle homeowners to adequate light.
If this goes ahead it could result in neighbours whose trees are blocking light having to take remedial action by pruning or felling them.
Tree safety is critical and your neighbours do have a legal duty of care to ensure that their trees are not a danger to public safety.
In the event that their trees did fall and cause damage to your property, your neighbours, if proven negligent, would then be liable for damages.
The best approach is to speak pragmatically about safety concerns to your neighbours and request that the trees are inspected by an arboriculturist, who is qualified to inspect and report on trees and their safety. They can also advise on any remedial work that needs to be done.
Bear in mind that this request could cause your relationship with your neighbours to deteriorate and they may not agree to the inspection.
In this situation the onus will be on you to commission the inspection and pay for it.
There is also a danger that your neighbours will not give the arboriculturist permission to enter their property to inspect the tree. Additionally, your neighbours may not be as accommodating in the future, in allowing you to cut back their trees, as they have been so far.