Your property questions answered
A tree trial
Q Have I any right to get the height of trees in a neighbour’s garden reduced or even have them removed? About five years ago, my neighbour planted 10 Leyland Cypress (Cupressocyparis leylandii) trees very close to his side of a tall boundary wall between our gardens. The trees are now over 8m tall and they are beginning to interfere with the light reaching our house and overhang our garden. Last week, a further six semi- mature (5m tall) leylandii were planted. I fear that in the near future these trees will also damage the boundary wall .
A Hedge rage caused by the super vigorous leylandii is the scourge of suburbia. Your problem, which has gone on for some time, has obviously been made worse by this new planting. Tom McGrath, of McGrath O’Donnell Associates, advises that legally your problem would come under the heading of what constitutes a substantial interference to one’s enjoyment of land – or, in legalese, the tort of nuisance. As this tort is quite broad, how it is treated by the courts will largely depend on the application of common sense about what is reasonable to expect between neighbours – the “live and let live” principle. You have a right not to have your light encroached on by another but McGrath notes that as this matter started some five years ago, and the restriction on the light did not happen overnight, a court may find that you have weakened your case through acquiescence, or failing to take action up to now, prejudicing any rights of remedy.
In order to obtain a mandatory injunction, the onus of proof on you is quite high, and your acquiescence to date, be it implied or otherwise, may not help. As you can see, going the legal route will likely be a long, costly and uncertain exercise. Have you tried talking to your neighbour? Do you benefit in any way from having the shrubs there?
If so, would you, for example, be willing to share in the cost of an annual tree trimming? Your neighbour might not be aware of how intrusive his planting is. As regards the roots’ potential to damage your boundary wall, seek expert opinion from an engineer who may give evidence as to whether or not there is an actual threat. According to McGrath, if there is and your neighbours negligently fail, or refuse to remedy the damage, then you will have a right of action. Again, an expensive business. Mediation and talk are the best first options.
An intrusive landlord
Q Can we stop our landlord coming into our apartment whenever he wants? We are three students renting for the first time and our landlord comes into the apartment (it’s in the basement of his house) on various pretexts. We think he’s just nosing around.
A Once you sign your tenancy agreement the apartment becomes your home and you are entitled to “quiet and exclusive enjoyment of your home”. He can only come in with your permission so you are fully entitled not to let him in – unless there is an emergency, in which case he can come in uninvited. Contact your student union or Threshold (threshold.ie) for further advice.
Send your queries to Property questions, The Irish Times, The Irish Times Building, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2 or e-mail email@example.com. This column is a readers’ service and is not intended to replace professional advice.