Property Clinic

Your queries answered

Leylandii trees and hedges are particularly problematic in residential areas – they are fast growing, difficult to control and considerably reduce light to nearby windows

Q We are having a dispute with our neighbour who as a result is threatening to plant mature leylandii trees on his side of a boundary wall. There are already hedges at the wall which he will remove to plant the leylandii. This would result in no light going into our children’s bedrooms as our house is very close to the wall. He is aware of this but is still going ahead. Are there any regulations or steps that we can take to prevent this?

A It is evident this dispute has become somewhat acrimonious. Leylandii trees and hedges are problematic in residential areas – they are fast growing, difficult to control and considerably reduce light to nearby windows.

The fact that your neighbour is threatening to plant mature leylandii trees indicates intent to interfere with your enjoyment of your amenity including your home. You should discuss this threat with your solicitor. In order to advise you, your solicitor will require details of the existing situation. Such details will be particularly important if your neighbour follows through on his threat or fails to respond reasonably, and you believe you have no option but to consider litigation.

To document details it is advisable to engage a surveyor, who has experience in this area, as an expert witness. The survey they carry out can usually be substantially completed without trespassing. It is essential that this is done before existing features are removed. This survey, which is likely to include photographs and a brief report, will inform your solicitor and enable him/her to advise you of the steps to take.


The survey is advisable irrespective of how the situation is resolved, whether by mutual agreement or litigation. In the event of litigation it will be key evidence. If your neighbour plants the leylandii trees, your surveyor will need to survey the site again, so that you will have before and after evidence to demonstrate the outcome of your neighbour’s actions to the court in the event of litigation.

However, as with any boundary issue, it is advisable at all stages to try to maintain communication in the hope of improving relationships. If he does not carry out his threat in the near future, the passage of time, combined with reasonable efforts on your part to maintain communication, may lead to a less adversarial relationship and you may avoid costly litigation.

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

Q I am building a house. We have our design, project manager, contractors and budget in place. However, I am confused by the new building control amendments around assigned certifiers due next year. My house won't be completed until next May – can you explain which process of certification I will be expected to have complied with at that stage?

A This is a timely question as a significant change in the building control system is about to occur in Ireland.

Traditionally, the sign-off of compliance with building regulations was driven by the need for title documents for conveyance of property rather than any statutory requirements. In many cases, this occurred with a single inspection when the property was completed and everything covered up. The obvious limitations of this system have been evidenced in recent high-profile building failures.

The Building Control Regulations 2013 will change all this and require that the building owner appoints competent designers, a competent builder and a competent assigned certifier. There will be standard forms for appointments that will need to be submitted to the local authority before the start, along with drawings and specifications to outline compliance with sections A to M of the building regulations.

The assigned certifier will develop an inspection plan for the works, co-ordinate inspections and issue a certificate of compliance on completion along with the builder, which is to be lodged with the local authority. The building cannot be used or occupied until this occurs.

The assigned certifier must be a registered building surveyor, registered architect or chartered engineer and this is set out in legislation. The system will apply to new houses, extensions over 40sq m (430sq ft) and commercial buildings.

It would appear that you have already started the build or it is imminent. In the case where the commencement notice is submitted before March 1st, the old system will still apply and the appointment of an assigned certifier will not be required. However, I would still recommend that you protect your interest by taking a number of simple steps.

Initially the design should be checked to ensure that it is developed to an appropriate level for construction; planning permission drawings are generally less detailed and in need of development to demonstrate building regulation compliance and construction details.

Second, allow for regular inspections of the property by a qualified person (eg, a chartered building surveyor, architect or chartered engineer with experience in the type of construction). This will not only provide you with the comfort of periodic inspection but also give a more meaningful sign-off at the end of the process.

Although slightly off the question, I should also mention that there are new health and safety regulations that affect domestic builds and you should check the HSA website or talk to your professional adviser on this.

Alan Isdell is a chartered building surveyor and member of the building surveying professional group of the SCSI

Q I am about to become a landlord for the first time although I never intended to be one. Due to negative equity I am moving from a one-bed apartment to a three-bedroom semi-detached home. Can you advise me of what I need to know and also my obligations and responsibilities?

A You are not alone in becoming an unintended landlord and there is much to consider in your new role to ensure that you meet your responsibilities and obligations from a legal and tax perspective. You should seek tax advice in relation to declaring your income for tax purposes, and in addition to being taxed on the rental income you are likely to have additional costs including the local property tax and the Private Residential Tenancies Board registration fee.

First, you should ensure your property meets all of the minimum standards: for information on this see .You should also ensure that it is furnished to the appropriate standards. Next you should draw up an inventory of contents and I would suggest that you discuss with your solicitor drafting a lease which would normally last for six months to a year.

Finding suitable tenants is the key aspect of the process and you should market the property well. Take good photos and prepare a full description of the property and advertise it online using one of the portals.

Carefully check the landlord and employment references of prospective tenants. It would also be advisable to seek a deposit from the tenant which would typically equal a month’s rent.

Once you find suitable tenants, you then need to sign the lease and register with the PRTB. You should have instruction manuals and keys for the tenants. Next you need to change the utilities into the tenants’ names and it is a good idea for them to set up a standing order for the rent each month.

It is important that you are aware of your responsibilities as a landlord and these will be set out in the lease agreement. I would also advise you to consult the PRTB website on this. If you decide to manage the property yourself, I would advise you to set up a quarterly inspection. You will also need to respond promptly to issues that may arise from the tenant.

If you are not comfortable with undertaking the letting and management yourself, use a letting and management agent (ensure they are licensed by the Property Services Regulatory Authority and, ideally, are members of one of the professional bodies). The agents' fees are tax deductible.

Gerard O'Toole is a chartered surveyor and chairman of the western regional branch of the SCSI

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