Can we ask neigh­bours to trim the trees block­ing light?

The Irish Times - Thursday - Property - - Advice -

QWe bought our new home in an ur­ban area rel­a­tively re­cently and no­ticed dur­ing the sum­mer that our neigh­bour’s trees were sig­nif­i­cantly block­ing our nat­u­ral light, leav­ing a very gloomy feel­ing in the house. We are new home own­ers and aren’t re­ally sure what the norm is in this sit­u­a­tion. We are also very keen not to get off on the wrong foot with our neigh­bours. Should we ask them to have the trees trimmed? What is the best ap­proach? They are el­derly, so we are con­scious not to put them to too much trou­ble. Any ad­vice would be ap­pre­ci­ated.

ATrees and the re­lated is­sue of nat­u­ral light – or the block­ing of it – are one of the most com­mon is­sues for prop­erty own­ers and their neigh­bours. It’s not al­to­gether clear from your ques­tion if they are bound­ary trees or wholly within your neigh­bour’s plot.

Any tree that en­croaches upon your prop­erty and/or air space and/or be­low ground may be trimmed back to the bound­ary line. How­ever, that comes with one im­por­tant caveat. You must ex­er­cise cau­tion and take care not to cause any dam­age to the tree[s] and you should not en­ter your neigh­bour’s prop­erty wi t h o u t con­sent/agree­ment. Also, do not take the wood from the tree, for use or dis­posal, with­out the con­sent of your neigh­bour.

If they [the trees] are wholly within your neigh­bour’s plot and cast­ing a shadow, that is a more com­plex mat­ter be­cause many more things need to be con­sid­ered. The pro­fes­sion­als who you will most likely need to en­gage to es­tab­lish how ex­actly the light is ma­te­ri­ally af­fect­ing your plot are an ar­chi­tect or a geo­mat­ics sur­veyor and a so­lic­i­tor.

The So­ci­ety of Char­tered Sur­vey­ors Ire­land to­gether with the Royal In­sti­tu­tion of Char­tered Sur­vey­ors and the Royal In­sti­tute of the Ar­chi­tects of Ire­land have pub­lished a guid­ance note en­ti­tled Rights of Light and it sets out a clear and com­pre­hen­sive list of items that need to be con­sid­ered com­plete with both prac­ti­cal and pro­fes­sional ad­vice.

A right of light for the pur­pose of this guid­ance note is a pri­vate, legally en­force­able ease­ment or right to a min­i­mum level of nat­u­ral day­light il­lu­mi­na­tion through a “de­fined aper­ture”, usu­ally a win­dow open­ing, whether con­ferred by ex­pressed or im­plied grant or ob­tained at com­mon law by a process of long, un­in­ter­rupted en­joy­ment known as “pre­scrip­tion”.

As with all ease­ments, there is a dom­i­nant ten­e­ment that en­joys the rights and a servient ten­e­ment that is sub­ject to and car­ries the bur­den of their ex­is­tence. Rights to light do not serve gar­den ar­eas, usu­ally. It may be the case that your neigh­bours are en­tirely un­aware of the is­sues you are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing. Per­haps if they were made known to them, in a non-con­fronta­tional way, and the sit­u­a­tion ex­plained they may well be will­ing to do some­thing to as­sist you or ob­vi­ate the is­sue[s] al­to­gether. The al­ter­na­tive can be lengthy, ex­pen­sive and pro­tracted. It is al­ways best, where pos­si­ble, to seek to en­gage with your neigh­bour. Re­solv­ing neigh­bourly mat­ters in a good-na­tured fash­ion, where pos­si­ble, is with­out ques­tion the best ap­proach. Sarah Sher­lock is a char­tered geo­mat­ics sur­veyor and mem­ber of the So­ci­ety of Char­tered Sur­vey­ors Ire­land.

QTwo years ago, we un­der­took some re­fur­bish­ment of the ground floor of our house to cre­ate an open-plan liv­ing/din­ing area. As part of the work, we in­creased the size of the slid­ing doors to the back gar­den to 2,400mm by 2,100mm. These doors were in­stalled by a rep­utable provider. Un­for­tu­nately, we have an on­go­ing is­sue with the op­er­a­tion of the doors in cold weather. In mild or warm weather, the door slides eas­ily with lit­tle ef­fort. But as the tem­per­a­ture drops, the door be­comes harder to open and it takes a good deal of ef­fort to move it across. We have had the com­pany out on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, and the last time they did some re­me­dial work, but the prob­lem per­sists. Can you please ad­vise how best we might pro­ceed?

ALarge slid­ing doors are a great idea to cre­ate the feel of a larger room and al­low ac­cess to a gar­den or deck area when the weather al­lows. A slid­ing mech­a­nism is of­ten the most cost ef­fi­cient and trou­ble-free way to achieve the de­sired open­ing rather than the costlier fold­ing/slid­ing type of­ten high­lighted in ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign pro­grammes.

The width and height of the open­ing as well as the type of glaz­ing unit will dic­tate what type of mech­a­nism and con­struc­tion is needed to al­low the smooth and easy op­er­a­tion of the doors.

Mostly a dou­ble-glazed unit was the norm but re­cent drives to im­prove en­ergy ef­fi­ciency are pro­mot­ing triple glaz­ing and many man­u­fac­tur­ers of­fer the higher stan­dard with con­se­quent ef­fects on op­er­a­tion and use sit­u­a­tions.

The weight of the slider of the size you de­scribe could be more than 80kg and that re­quires a lot of tech­ni­cal con­sid­er­a­tion if the tol­er­ances for seals and ease are to be main­tained.

You don’t tell us what type of unit you have. Alu­minium and uPVC will move dra­mat­i­cally with tem­per­a­ture while tim­ber can swell or shrink sea­son­ally or due to ori­en­ta­tion. These fac­tors all add up to cause the prob­lems you de­scribe.

If the sys­tem has been de­signed by a sys­tems house for fab­ri­cat­ing and in­stalling

Send your queries to prop­er­tyques­[email protected]­

or to Prop­erty Clinic, The Ir­ish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2. This col­umn is a read­ers’ ser­vice. The con­tent of the Prop­erty Clinic is pro­vided for gen­eral in­for­ma­tion only. It is not in­tended as ad­vice on which read­ers should rely. Pro­fes­sional or spe­cial­ist ad­vice should be ob­tained be­fore per­sons take or re­frain from any ac­tion on the ba­sis of the con­tent. The Ir­ish Times and its con­trib­u­tors will not be li­able for any loss or dam­age aris­ing from re­liance on any con­tent. by a lo­cal fac­tory, as is of­ten the case, then there will be man­u­fac­tur­ing tol­er­ance stan­dards that are crit­i­cal to their op­er­a­tion in all sit­u­a­tions.

These are of­ten not met by a lo­cal fac­tory and could be just a mil­lime­tre or so out­side the de­sign pa­ram­e­ters caus­ing the unit to bind as you de­scribe.

If your con­trac­tor is a re­seller of a “sys­tem” then your first av­enue will be to have the sys­tem man­u­fac­turer’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive at­tend to re­view the is­sues. This per­son should be able to de­ter­mine if the fab­ri­ca­tor has the tol­er­ances set too tight or if there was any dis­crep­ancy when ei­ther mak­ing or in­stalling the unit and ad­vise you what they jointly in­tend to do to rec­tify mat­ters.

If the in­staller is act­ing di­rectly for a man­u­fac­turer then he will be bound by both the sale of goods Act and the Con­struc­tion Prod­ucts Reg­u­la­tions which de­scribe fit­ness for pur­pose. In this event, you should ad­vise the com­pany rep­re­sen­ta­tive in writ­ing that you are not sat­is­fied with the item and de­mand a re­fund un­less they re­solve the is­sues to your sat­is­fac­tion, and you may re­quire le­gal ad­vice from that point.

Al­ter­na­tively, bind­ing can be caused by move­ment in the struc­ture and I as­sume a new beam and cill de­tail was fit­ted which, if badly in­stalled, could give rise to the is­sues you de­scribe, es­pe­cially if you have a tim­ber-framed house.

In this case you should con­tact your lo­cal char­tered build­ing sur­veyor who will re­port and ad­vise.

‘‘ If they are wholly within your neigh­bour’s plot and cast­ing a shadow, that is a more com­plex mat­ter

Fer­gus Mer­ri­man is a mem­ber of the So­ci­ety of Char­tered Sur­vey­ors Ire­land.


Trees and the re­lated is­sue of nat­u­ral light – or the block­ing of it – are one of the most com­mon is­sues for prop­erty own­ers and their neigh­bours.

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