I want to cut my hedge but my neighbour says I can’t
Your property questions answered
A property owner may cut any portion of the hedge that lies exclusively on their property
Q. I purchased a new house from a builder in a Dublin housing estate about 30 years ago. As with many new houses, the builders put in a low timber fence in the back garden as a dividing fence.
I planted evergreen trees about 22cm from the dividing fence on my side. These have now grown to about 3m tall and are unmanageable and difficult for me to trim. Can I cut these down to say 2m or lower. The next-door neighbour states I cannot without his permission. I believe this is not a dividing fence and I don’t need his permission. The original timber fence is partly gone but part can still be seen. What’s your view?
A. You say you planted the hedge exclusively on your plot of ground. It is wise to establish if the fence is jointly or exclusively owned by one or other properties, as it may decrease the amount of space you believe you have on your side of the fence. One of the first ports of call when the question of property ownership arises is to consult with the relevant title deeds. In many circumstances there will be a map attached. This is known as a deed map. Typically the map will describe the spatial arrangements of the particular plot of ground.
Prior to you doing any works, you should consult with a chartered geomatics surveyor and have them measure and verify the actual spatial arrangements that pertain to the area in question. Items such as the partially intact fence, rootstock of the trees, spread and other data will be recorded. When presented on a large-scale map you will see the area in plan, how it has evolved over time and this will enable you to work forward in an informed manner.
It may be the case that the hedge you once planted clearly on your plot, has grown to the extent that it now sits in part where the old fence once did. If this is so, your neighbour may be correct and you should not top the entire of the hedge without agreement.
With ownership comes the question of maintenance and you do not say if you have exclusively maintained the hedge or if your neighbour maintains the portion facing his property. If he does, it would further suggest that the hedge is used and treated as a party hedge, with its origins in your plot.
A property owner may cut any portion of the hedge that lies exclusively on their property; however, they should be aware they must not do so to the extent that it will interfere with that of their neighbour’s portion (if any) if it is not situated within their plot and they are maintaining it.
If it is possible to draw-up a hedge management plan that will address all of your concerns that may be the easiest and most neighbourly way forward. Such a plan would serve you both, by addressing matters of mutual concern. From the sounds of it neither of you wants to remove the hedge. It seems as though the issue arose because you are finding it difficult to top the hedge. Might your neighbour be willing to cut this section in return for your accepting to leave the hedge at its current height?
Obviously, it is best to try to reach an agreement with the adjoining owner if you can. If agreement cannot be reached, under the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 you may make an application to the District Court for a “Works Order”. Such an Order will set out what you may (or may not) do. The Court may impose whatever conditions it deems necessary taking all the relevant circumstances into account and at least you will have absolute clarity regarding what you can and cannot do.
Sarah Sherlock is a chartered geomatics surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie