A park bench has been installed at our front door. What can we do?

Property Clinic: It’s important to confirm the extent of a property’s boundary before buying

Issues of privacy can arise where public amenities such as park benches are placed too close to one’s home. Photograph: Vladimir Godnik/Getty

Issues of privacy can arise where public amenities such as park benches are placed too close to one’s home. Photograph: Vladimir Godnik/Getty

 

About a month ago we bought a new-build, four-bed house in Dublin 24. There is a small public park just to the front of our house. The builder has recently been trying to install a few benches in the park. This is a great initiative and we appreciate the move. However, the builder has placed one bench two steps from our front door. We are worried because it raises privacy and security concerns for us.

We approached the builder and requested that they move the bench towards the other end of our garden. They have told us, however, that they have no choice in the matter as the current position of the bench is set out in the planning approval given by the local authority.

Neither the builder nor the estate agent showed us any plans during our purchase of the house. Had we known that a park bench would be placed right in front of our door, we would have thought twice before going for this particular property.

What can we do to remove this bench which is exactly two steps from our front door? Are there any legal options in such instances for buyers like us to pursue against the builder?

The location of the bench as described is unusual and somewhat puzzling. The first step you should take is to confirm the precise extent of your property including any rights of way or the extent of common areas you or other residents in the estate/development may have outside the boundaries to your respective properties. This information, on a deed map or otherwise, should have been supplied to you at the time of purchase. It is possible that your property extends outside or beyond the front wall of your house. Purchasers of property should insist on having the boundaries of their property defined so that, firstly, they know precisely what they are acquiring and, secondly, they can deal effectively with issues that subsequently arise. The Land Register, ie the Property Registration Authority map, has a non-conclusive boundary and is therefore not definitive.

The objective in establishing the extent of your interests is to enable you to determine if the bench is located on or partially on: (a) your property; (b) a right of way to you and/or other residents; (c) a residents common area; or (d) a public park. It would be clearly a trespass to place it on your property and an obstruction if placed on a right of way. If there is an owners management company (OMC), it would be aware of the circumstances in which the bench was placed on a common area. If the bench is located as described in (a), (b) or (c) you should notify the OMC and request it to take action to have it relocated. If it is placed fully on an area which is a public park it may still be an issue that the OMC can take up with the developer or county council on your behalf, as it is adversely affecting your residential amenity.

Main concerns

Irrespective of whether or not there is an OMC, you should discuss the situation with your solicitor and, as stated above, request details of your property and associated rights. Your main concerns are: (i) your residential amenity has been degraded; (ii) your privacy and, potentially your security, have been compromised; (iii) the proximity of the bench is such, that if occupied, you cannot adhere to ongoing Covid-19 social-distance guidelines when leaving or entering your house. You should also check the approved landscaping plan in the council planning office, outline your concerns and request the council to facilitate the relocation of the bench.

Your legal options are substantially dependent on whether or not your property rights have been compromised or whether the approved planning requirements have been adhered to. If you do not get a commitment to move the bench you might consider discussing it with your local county councillor. He/she and the other elected representatives of the council formally adopted the County Development Plan. Residential amenity is a primary consideration in the County Development Plan. A public bench located two steps from your front door is not compatible with good residential amenity. – Patrick Shine

Patrick Shine is a chartered geomatics surveyor, a chartered civil engineer and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland

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