Do I have to pay to move my ESB cable to facilitate my neighbour’s new build?

Property Clinic: There should be no cost for this work unless you decide to upgrade

With electricity, the supply method can be improved by placing cabling below ground. Photograph: Getty Images

With electricity, the supply method can be improved by placing cabling below ground. Photograph: Getty Images


Part of the garden of the detached house next to us has been sold and a house is to be built on the site. We get our ESB connection by overhead cable from the house that owned the site now to be built on. The ESB cable will presumably have to be moved as the new house is to be built below the cable. The house is to be a high two-storey one, and the cable is quite low slung.

Do we have to bear any of the cost of relocating the cable? Our connection has been there since our house was built in 1969. It is not possible to have the cable connected directly to the ESB pole on the road due to the roof design. It had to be connected to next door who in turn are connected by overhead cable to the ESB pole on the road.

For context, the house next door is in new ownership and undergoing renovation. The situation is quite delicate as a long-settled arrangement is now potentially tricky and we are concerned we may be faced with an enormous bill for any change to our electricity connection. As we are not the instigating party to any necessary change, I feel we should not have to bear any costs. Am I right?

Noel Larkin writes: The prospect of building works next door always brings an air of anxiety. This is natural. We humans are territorial. Even the suggestion of the slightest disturbance to our habitat can lead to increased stress levels. We are naturally programmed to maintain the status quo. Our concern is usually firstly around privacy and next any potentially negative impact on our home.

I had a client recently where a wastepipe from his house traversed the neighbouring site. A full-scale refurbishment and extension of the adjoining house brought him sleepless nights with worry about heavy plant and machinery crossing and potentially crushing the pipe that lay just below ground level. His concerns were not unfounded.

In general terms, any work permitted by the local authority through planning permission should not have any detrimental effect on neighbouring properties. Once the builder and professional design team are in place, it’s a good idea to remind them of any known hidden obstacles before work begins.

If possible, one should then take a long-term view and let them get on with the work without undue interruption – the hope being that work on the project will proceed in a timely manner. However, if there is any deviation from the work permitted this should be promptly followed up with them.

Damage relationship

It really is a question of striking the right balance. A neighbour who becomes very involved in a next-door project can damage what should be a harmonious relationship. For their part, the builder/developer should strive to allay any concerns adjoining owners have before works start.

In your case, your electrical supply is looped from the nearby property and this will now need to be altered to allow development of the new house which has planning permission. You are worried about the cost of doing this and continuity of supply is a concern. The looped arrangement is the old way of doing things and is no longer used. It seems also that a direct connection to the pole on the road is obstructed by your neighbours’ current house.

For the purposes of illustration let’s call your neighbour’s house, house number one, the new house to be constructed house number two and your house, number three.

I have checked with ESB Networks (, and they were kind enough to guide me on the following reply.

House number one (neighbours’ house): their supply will not be affected. No cost implications.

House number two (new house): they will need to pay for a new connection to their house in the normal way. Their cost is therefore for a new supply to house number two.

House number three (your house): your house will be resupplied by the most economical means possible but this cost will be covered by ESB Networks Ltd. This will typically be over head and from the nearest electrical pole, or a new pole if needed. There is an opportunity to improve the supply method by placing the cabling in ducting below ground. However, the additional cost of this would fall to you as it is considered an improvement.

So, in summary you will have no cost associated with this amendment to your electrical supply unless you choose to upgrade to an underground supply.

If you are uncomfortable in dealing directly with issues such as this, your local chartered building surveyor would be happy to assist in liaising with your neighbour and in ensuring all aspects are dealt with to your satisfaction.

Noel Larkin is a chartered building surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland,