I am 72 and live alone. My long back garden is bounded by walls with four owners on the left side. One property on the left was sold in 2000 and the new owners took liberties with my boundary wall unknown to me during a time while I had let my own house.
At the time I acted without legal or other advice and simply asked that the wall be restored to its previous state. I had taken a photo of the wall from my side and it really was an eyesore on what had been an integral granite stone wall. The owner responsible blamed the workmen and promised to have the matter put right. Again, he engaged workmen who buried the debris left by their work in my garden. However, I couldn’t pursue the matter at the time.
The same owners have allowed overgrowth of a very vigorous form of ivy which now completely covers the top of the wall and reaches in an extending and overhanging form up to five or six feet into the back of my garden and would be enough to fill a medium skip if removed . I pointed out the situation to the owner within the past year in a letter and a short meeting followed. There are also horizontal branches from a tree reaching into my garden. His line is that he will look after the pruning on his side and I should look after the pruning on my side. We have had no further meetings.
I intend to raise the matter again with him in the coming weeks and would like to read your advice on the kind of commitments I should or should not enter with this man. Should I engage a legal person and/or a qualified expert to act on my behalf (I have to beware of costs)?
In your question you do not provide much background to the relative ages of your house and your neighbour’s house. From your description, it’s difficult to say whose ownership the wall is in. It is important to establish this as if technically you own the wall you would be within your rights to objecting to the affixing of objects on top of it.
An inspection of the deeds to your property could throw some light on this, as the deeds could contain a well-defined deed map or detailed description of where the legal boundary is and in whose ownership the wall belongs, and whether it is a shared party wall or in the ownership of one party.
If it is your wall the legal boundary between the properties is along the face of the wall on your neighbour’s side. You then own the space over the wall. If jointly owned the legal boundary is likely to be along the centre of the wall.
If your neighbour is uncooperative in pruning his trees you are entitled to cut the overhanging branches at the legal boundary. You are obliged to offer to return the cuttings to the neighbour. Likewise with the ivy, or you could detach it from your side and push it back. Your local garden centre may be able to advise you on products and methods for discouraging ivy growth across the top of the wall.
As with all such boundary issues it is important to maintain communication and a conciliatory approach to your neighbour. For instance, actions such as throwing branch cuttings into a neighbour’s property or pushing the ivy growth well into their garden may be perceived as aggressive and will only serve to escalate the problem.
Niamh O’Reilly is a chartered geomatics surveyor and chair of the Geomatics Professional Group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland.