How do I stop my neighbour’s overgrown garden invading mine?

Your property queries answered

Acacia dealbata: It is difficult to trace and record tree roots. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

My neighbour will not allow me to erect a block wall between our properties. The wall is standard between many of the houses in our estate so it is in keeping with the surroundings. His "garden" is overgrown and weeds and briars are coming through the dilapidated 25-year-old fence. I originally asked him to split the cost and he refused. Then I offered to pay for it completely and he refused again. I am at my wits' end. What options do I have?

The situation you describe, in which an inconsiderate property owner permits hedges, briars and weeds, etc to affect adjoining properties is the cause of much upset and annoyance to neighbours. You have two options, neither ideal, but the alternative is to do nothing.

The first is to make a case for obtaining a Works Order from the courts under the provisions of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009, sections 43-47, which provides for carrying out necessary work, including maintenance or replacement, on boundaries.

Information such as photographs, measurements and dates, if known, of your neighbour’s refusals, would be required. The Act provides for a wide interpretation of boundary related situations. You should consult your solicitor about this process.


The second option is to remove all growth extending to your side of the fence, which I presume is accepted as a party fence, and is therefore positioned on the legal boundary. You then construct the wall as close as possible to the boundary line without disturbing the existing fence, as any significant interference with a party fence requires the consent of the other party.

While you would be effectively conceding a marginal strip of ground, the wall would be built on your property and therefore be in your ownership. You do not need your neighbour’s consent to construct a wall on your property.

You may need the assistance of a building surveyor or engineer to design a foundation and wall that maximises your space while avoiding encroachment at foundation level. Wall height limits are subject to planning regulations, generally 2m (rear garden), and 1.2m (front garden).

The latter option may prove to be more stress free. The outcome of the first option may not be as desired. While the Act provides for the situation described, you may be conditioned to construct a fence similar to the existing fence.

Irrespective of what action you decide on, you should first record the existing situation by taking measurements and photographs. These should indicate the extent of the growth in the context of the existing fence and other permanent features for future reference.

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

Some years ago my neighbour planted two acacia dealbata trees just behind the boundary fence separating our gardens to afford his family some privacy. Unfortunately the roots of the trees appear to be quite shallow and have uprooted the slabs of my patio. I do plan to contact my neighbour to try and resolve the matter amicably. However, I would like to know what alternative avenues I could pursue in the event that he is not amenable to addressing the situation. I am concerned about how far the trees' root systems could extend into my garden as there are only about five metres between the boundary fence and my house. Your guidance on this matter would be much appreciated.

It does not appear, from your question, that there is a particular issue with the boundary save for the fact that the roots of the tree may have encroached and now exist within your particular plot of ground.

Also, it is not clear if the tree, as planted, is situated on your neighbour’s property or that of another that neither of you own. So to find a suitable solution, it is likely that you will require additional professional input, not limited to that of a surveyor.

A geomatics surveyor will assist you by recording all of the spatial characteristics with accuracy and precision; however, underground this becomes increasingly complex and often more restricted. It is difficult to trace and record tree roots precisely as they may be small and are often complexly interwoven.

A measured survey of the property is useful as a true representation of how the property physically presented prior to any work being carried out. It may also assist with quantifying areas, distances or volumes at a later stage should you need to assign costings etc.

An arboricultural consultant is perhaps one of the best starting points and they may use a measured survey to assist in their reporting. Typically they are in a position to issue reports on the condition of the trees and may recommend tree work where it is required. They are likely to know if the roots are the cause of the disturbance and how best to approach the matter afterwards.

While trees under and above ground are treated somewhat similarly, roots are undeniably a little more complex as they are concealed, anchor the tree and may spread extensively. Under no circumstances should you damage the tree and/or render it unstable in any way.

It is wise to have a building surveyor take a look at your property too, to establish that there is no structural damage to your property. If there is, they will be best placed to advise on the appropriate steps thereafter.

Peaceful living is something most people wish for and most good neighbourly relationships strive to this end. An informal chat with your neighbour is the best way forward and is an excellent way to see if you can find common ground on the issue.

Perhaps jointly appointing the particular professionals would be the best option for you both – that way any agreements made will be based on informed choices. It is important that you can live side by side while both securing a satisfactory outcome.

Sarah Sherlock is a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland