Can we ask neighbours to trim the trees blocking light?
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
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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.