Home Economics: answering your property questions
Advice on whether you are within your rights to cut trees on wasteland behind your property and what you can do to brighten up a rental property, without affecting your deposit.
Question: I have tall trees growing on a tract of wasteland behind my back wall and overlooking my back garden. I am considering cutting them back as my sunlight is seriously compromised. There are no buildings on the far side for some distance. Nobody else (e.g. neighbours) would be affected by this. Am I within my rights to go ahead, as I cannot identify any objectors nor the owner of the land. What possible repercussion could there be?
Sinead replies: It would appear the trees are contained completely within the land behind your property - i.e. not on a party line. You are entitled to cut any branches overhanging into your property in any event.
I asked Susan Cosgrove of Cosgrove Gaynard Solicitors about your fuller rights. "The difficulty with cutting back the height of the trees is that you are not aware who the owner is. A search can be carried out by a solicitor to identify the owner of the lands and a request can then be furnished to them to cut back the trees.
"A right to light may exist, however this is a complex area and not something that can be fully advised on without a review of the full circumstances. In short, the time period to establish a right to light is now 12 years since the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 (it was previously 20 years), but I don't know how long you're living there.
"Once the right is established you can prevent a neighbouring landowner from interfering with or blocking the natural light coming into your property and, in your circumstances, ensure that the trees are cut back to the necessary level."
Question: I've just moved into my first apartment and although the location is great, the decor is very bland. Everything was painted Magnolia with basic pine furniture. The landlord doesn't want me repainting, which is fair, but I really want to make the rooms my own - I work from home and would really like to brighten and lighten it up as a work space and home. What am I entitled to change and what would personalise it? I don't have a lot of money.
Sinead replies: It does sound a little drab and from a legal perspective you are limited by what's allowed in your lease, or by negotiation with your landlord, who could withhold some of your deposit if walls are damaged, even by Blu-Tack or nails.
Houzz.ie sells peelable wallpaper which is pretty. 'Leaning' large art work/mirrors against walls is very effective and there are markets and car boot sales where you can pick up funky frames, rugs or cushions for very little money. You can also paint your own freestanding furniture, like bookcases, to brighten it up. Ikea's start from €30. I also asked Carlow based interior designer Margaret Harrington (www.curtainqueen.net) for her advice: "The great thing about an apartment painted a single neutral colour is that it maximises light, unifies the space and gives you a blank canvas from which to create a look that reflects your personal taste. You can introduce colour from many sources without painting. Start with a single key item such as a colourful rug or a large framed print. Choose two (or three) colours from it and buy or make an assortment of scatter cushions in these colours. Mix patterns and textures - it makes for an interesting sofa.
"Use feather fillers if you can; polyester can go lumpy. You can soften the pine furniture with simple rectangular runners that lie across the top and down the sides of bookcases, chests or sideboards. Use the same fabric as your cushions.
"Unify the look by choosing accessories in the same colours - don't get too carried away - just a few interesting pieces. Complete with matching lampshades and always make room for a pot plant or two - bring the outside in."