My neighbour is threatening to plant trees that will block light from entering some of our bedrooms

November 2013

Question

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?

Answer

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.