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My neighbour has cut down my trees. What can I do?

I believe my neighbour has cut down six trees on my property, as well as hacking back others

I built my house on a half-acre site in 2001 and the first thing I did, even before building, was plant a mix of native trees along the boundary wall with my neighbour. Since then, I have rewilded a lot of my back garden, partly because I am concerned about biodiversity loss, and partly because it is easier to maintain. My children have left, and I live alone now.

I had a horticulturist visit my garden a few days ago for a consultation, only to find that my neighbour had cut down six trees on my property, as well as cutting or hacking back others so that I wonder if they will survive. The six trees are cut down to a few inches of stump. He also took a lot from the tops of some of the trees. He has stacked all the wood neatly on the side of his wall along with two ladders. I am not sure when exactly he did it, I heard chainsaws over a number of days and looked out from upstairs but saw no activity. It didn’t occur to me that he was in my garden. He has cleared about a metre width to my side of the wall, for a part of its length. He was clearly working in my garden.

His own garden is the opposite of mine, very neat and tidy, so we both have different views of how we like our gardens.

I am not sure what to do. I know what he did is illegal. I need to speak to him, but am not sure what exactly I can say. I am so shocked and angry at the loss of six 22-year-old trees and possibly more, and at the idea of him feeling he could do that. We have not had any disputes before and things have been civil up to now. Do you have any suggestions?


It is annoying and frustrating to discover that your work to reduce biodiversity loss has been wilfully damaged as described. If it was caused by your neighbour, he has committed several offences, including trespassing, damage and apparently the removal of trees from your property.

You should first document in detail the extent of the damage. This should include a drawing or sketch of the affected area in relation to the boundary between your respective properties. It should include measurements from the tree stumps to the boundary, photographs, and notes on the hacking back and cutting of tops of trees and photographs of the stacked wood and ladders referred to. You should ask your horticulturist to assess your record of the damage and to provide you with a cost estimate of suitable young replacement trees. You may need these details as evidence for your case in achieving a resolution. They will also be useful in the event of a repeat of the offences at a future date.

I understand your difficulty on the issue of what to say to him. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that your evidence is circumstantial and because it is impossible to make good the damage and difficult to put a compensation value on it.

I suggest you approach him to express your concern and ask him if he had an issue with your trees. If he denies any involvement, inform him that as it is a matter of trespass and damage, you have no option but to make a report to the Garda. If he admits that he entered your property and cut and removed the trees, you are then in a position to question his motives.

His motives are likely to include one or more of the following: (a) overhanging branches or the likelihood of overhanging branches, (b) reduction of sunlight or view, (c) leaves falling in his garden.

In relation to (a), your neighbour is entitled to cut only the parts of the branches that overhang the property boundary. In relation to (b), he does not have a right to direct sunlight or a view. In relation to (c), fallen leaves are a natural seasonal occurrence, and dealing with them is a matter of co-operation between neighbours.

If your neighbour’s motives are as described, or similar, it is then a matter for you to decide how to respond, firstly, to determine compensation for the damage caused, and secondly, to what extent, if any, you can accommodate his wishes in relation to your trees. Your horticulturist’s advice in relation to appropriate compensation will be useful. An amicable resolution is desirable, especially for future neighbourly relations. Escalation leading to litigation could prove expensive, stressful and have an unsatisfactory outcome in any case.

His attitude, and willingness to compensate you, are likely to influence how you deal with the issue. If you are not satisfied with his response, or you believe he may repeat his actions in future, your documented details, including photographs, will prove helpful in a consultation with your solicitor.

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

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