The High Hedges Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 gives local authorities in Northern Ireland the powers to deal with complaints about high hedges that block light to a neighbour’s property.
This means that if a neighbour makes a complaint about the height of your hedge, we have the authority to serve you with a notice to cut it down to a reasonable height.
Criteria for Complaints
There are a number of criteria that a hedge needs to meet before someone can make a complaint. If you own a high hedge, you need to consider the following questions about your hedge.
- Is it (or the portion that is causing problems) made up of a line of two or more trees or shrubs?
- Is it mostly evergreen or semi-evergreen?
- Is it more than two metres above ground level?
- Even if there are gaps in the foliage or between the trees, is the hedge still capable of obstructing light?
You Cannot Make a Complaint About
- single trees
- non-evergreen hedges or trees
- trees within a forest or woodland (more than 0.2 hectares)
- roots, dangerous trees, or leaves.
Information for high hedge owners
If you have a high hedge, you don’t have to do anything unless your hedge is causing a problem for someone else. You should maintain the hedges on your property at a reasonable height and listen carefully if your neighbours have any concerns about it.
We encourage all residents to resolve issues informally and between themselves, before we have to get involved.
Information for those who are affected by a high hedge
If you pursue a complaint about a neighbour’s high hedge, you will need to show evidence that you have already tried to resolve the situation amicably.
You should talk to your neighbour or write them a letter. Keep a record of all correspondence with your neighbour.
You can use our sample letters to help explain to your neighbour how their hedge is blocking your light.
If your neighbour refuses to talk or correspond with you, you could ask a community representative or mutual friend to intervene. Or you could contact an independent mediator. But, there may be a cost associated with this.
If talking or writing to your neighbour does not work, you can then submit a complaint.
You must send evidence with your complaint, such as a photograph and location plan of the hedge and a copy of letter(s) sent to your neighbour.
You will need to pay a fee of £360 to take up the complaint. If your complaint is upheld, this fee will be refunded to you.
Choosing a tree surgeon
Tree work is complicated. You will need a professional to do the job.
If tree work is not carried out correctly, it could result in injury to you or the arborist, damage to your property, or damage to the tree.
Reputable tree care experts will be happy to show you copies of their insurance, qualifications and professional memberships so don’t be afraid to ask to see these. You should also ask if they are willing to provide a written quotation and can they provide and references for their previous work. If they cannot or will not provide these items, do not employ them.
When you receive a quote, check that it includes the following:
- reference to British Standard BS3998:2010
- clear and full details of the work to be undertaken
- what will happen to the waste
- whether VAT is included or not
- who will be responsible for obtaining permission (if the trees are protected)
- what steps will be taken to protect you and your property.