Building works behind our house are worrying us, what are our rights?
Property Clinic: You should have the effect of building work so far assessed and a report prepared
Houses are being built behind our garden, leaving us as a family very exposed and vulnerable. What can we do?
I am desperate. A building company has started building four homes behind our house and have been building for nearly a year now with only two nearly finished. A while ago, they tore down all the trees behind our boundary wall leaving a mess, and also damaged the wall to the point of it leaning due to the force of the bulldozing. They left an overhanging tree as the roots are under the wall. We have been in touch with our local TD and have a meeting with the company soon.
The land they are building on is higher than our garden which leaves us as a family very exposed to the point of vulnerability. For a few months, the builders were also living on site in caravans, which was very disconcerting.
I am unsure as to our rights and am very worried as I have been informed that they will make things difficult and have said it is not their problem. There must be some support for residents in cases like this where big building companies come on the scene.
The issues you outline need to be assessed without delay. It is assumed that planning permission has been granted for the development. Therefore, there is little you can do about the houses being built on higher ground and the fact that you may be overlooked or feel vulnerable as a result. However, it is advisable to check the planning file to see if conditions have been imposed in relation to the trees or screening. It is also advisable to check if it is the intention to use your wall as a party boundary wall.
The effect of the construction work on the wall is a serious matter. It is an encroachment and damage to your property. To deal with it, I advise that you have it assessed and have a report prepared, without delay, by a chartered building surveyor. You should provide him/her with photographs, or any such evidence that you may have, from before and after. Your building surveyor will carry out a detailed inspection of the wall and will measure the extent to which it is leaning. He/she will assess the effect of the removal of the trees on the stability and safety of the wall and will also examine the planning file. Your title deeds, and/or Land Registry Folio and map if your property is registered, may be of assistance to your surveyor in preparing the report. Irrespective of the outcome of your meeting with the builder, it would be prudent to present your solicitor with the building surveyor’s report and all relevant information and seek advice.
If the trees you refer to were located on the original boundary of the lands on which the houses are being constructed, it is possible that the site owned by the building company or developer extends only to the trees as the space between the trees and your wall may be the residue of the estate on which your house is located. If this is the situation the builder does not have a right to extend activities beyond the trees. If the trees formed a party boundary between two original land titles, the builder’s right to remove them is questionable.
In summary, engage a building surveyor to prepare a report as soon as possible, check the ownership of the land immediately behind the wall on which trees were/are located, present all information to your solicitor and seek advice.
Patrick Shine is a chartered geomatics surveyor, a chartered civil engineer and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland. scsi.ie