Neighbours trees blocking our light


(Karen Dempsey) #1

Hello everyone.


Does anybody have any info/experience on what to do when a neighbors trees are blocking the light. We have just bought a property and some of the neighbors trees are particularly high and can block out a lot of light at certain times of day. That's my primary concern but they are also very close to the electricity lines too and well within falling distance of our roof if things got a bit blowy.


I had a general discussion with someone from the mairie, they suggested (as they too can see there is a problem with the light etc) I talk to the neighbor, which I plan to do. It is just a second home, she's not there a lot so until I do finally get hold of her to have a chat, I thought I'd see where the law lies. I don't want to go in all guns blazing, we have just bought the place and I would like to get off to a good start. But I would like to know what rights I do have when asking her to cut them back. Thanks


(Kwashie Konu) #2

If she can say all of that, in French, with just the right inflection, I'll be be very impressed.


(Norman Clark) #3

Late arrival to this posting, but I think there a a further couple of points worth making - whilst still agreeing wholeheartedly about not starting a feud that could simmer for years.

We saw and bought our house with vast valley views and did note the walnut tree that sat in the middle of it, but which we also noted provided our mitoyenne (holiday home) French neighbours with the only shade they have. They are lovely people and did suggest that as it was affecting our view they might cut it down. Two things applied here, one I have an aversion to cutting down healthy trees unless absolutely necessary, and two, as the trees are decidous in the winter still mild months the leaves fall so we still can enjoy the view. We have no money available for forestry work, and are both pensioners at at 76 years old I have not the slightest intention of climbing up ladders with power saws to trim or otherwise attack the tree.

On the other side we have another tree that belongs to our neighbour who happens to be the Maire, and that has grown over the past four years to block permanently (as it is an evergreen) some 25 percent of our view. Just to compound the issue we have in our turn trees that have grown which block the valley view for the retired Abbé.

So here's a potential stew to upset a lot of people, but the answer has to be in compromise. Taking the last case first the Abbé approached us about his loss of view and we agreed that he could get our trees cut back whenever they became a problem. He was happy to pay for this. Obviously no problem for us. We have yet to approach the Maire about his tree, BUT in the interim we have had a young English couple with three young children move into an old ruin about four doors down. To be brutally frank about it so far they seem to have turned the ruin into a slum, so if the Maire's tree gets cut down (which we don't want) or even trimmed, we will simply get a 'better' view of the builder's yard slum, as the English guy has cut down all the trees on his property to get a better view! A clear case of vandalism for me, but its his land. So second situation resolved by evolving circs.

We will be asking for the walnut tree to be trimmed back a bit in width, and as it is non-productive, and a bit straggly we think this will produce an acceptable result all round.

So the point I am trying to make is that trees grow, circumstances change, and that all considerations should go beyond the here and now, and consider the future, both on the ecological sense and the personal relationships sense.Whatever you do, remember that it will take time to turn round any errors.

We noted that someone persuaded the old lady owner of a large property here that she was missing out of the view and that her magnificent hedge should be cut right back. She now has an uninterrupted view of the side wall of the house slightly lower than hers on the slope, but nothing more. She has lost all her own privacy and gained nothing in the view.

Finally one point about the relevance of the health of any trees on the properties - and where they are rooted I understand to be the point of responsibility. If a healthy tree is torn down by storms for example this is usually covered by household insurance, and even any damage done to power lines is not usually the householders liability, neither is tree removal across a road. However, it is my clear understanding that if the tree is seen to be rotten and had not been cut down by the householder any insurance is null and void and could mean facing substantial repair bills - I think the roads and power lines would not be the responsibility of the householder though. Worth checking the insurance on this. Also remember that removing a healthy tree can have an effect on drainage, so it is not something to be done lightly.


(suzy davis) #4

Good one Gregor.


(Kent Shelley) #5

We bought the mature pine woods at the side of our house. Our French neighbour mentioned, just conversationally, how much the giant trees shaded her potager. She’s a nice, friendly, helpful person and she wasn’t giving me any sort of a hard time about it but, in order to be neighbourly and helpful, I’ve been harvesting the ones that cut the sunlight and, in the process, creating a bit of a new garden and parking space at the side of the house. I also gave her permission to whack the tops off the elders and bays on my side of the boundary. And just lately I’ve been aided and abetted by the high winds which have knocked down several of the trees anyway.

I guess my point is that, in our hamlet, things tend to get done in a friendly, neighbourly, mutual back-scratching way: easy does it…

Not like my American friend who bought a house in the UK right next door to a pub that was long renowned for its great Saturday night live bands - then went about trying to get them stopped…


(John Snell) #6

Hi Karen. I hate to appear unhelpful, but the answer lies in the question: you've just purchased a property close to mature trees - they didn't suddenly appear between your pre-purchase inspection(s) and contract completion. As others have pointed out; there is no right to light in France.

Best advice is to be friendly with the tree owners and see if they'd be agreeable to some careful pruning (professionally carried out at your expense - including removal of debris) to improve what you have bought..... I'd avoid scare tactics about possible root damage to buildings and boundary walls if the trees continue unchecked, but entirely your call. There is no shortage of anecdotes about neighbours falling out over trees, hedges, boundaries etc - makes for an unhealthy environment.


(Gregor Hakkenberg) #7

Or tell them: "We heard rumors that you were going to chop down the trees for fear of them falling on the EDF lines. I hope you won't, because they are really lovely." and maybe they'll chop them down just to show those biftèk who's boss around here!


(Richard Grear) #8

Sounds like the Mairie was fishing. Looking for a reason to aproach your neighbour perhaps? We too have upset the neighbours... because we cut down some of our trees which were on our land blocking light etc etc the "planted by MMe X to mark the anniversary of YZ" is a very real syndrome.

I'd play the innocent when you see your neighbour "I'm not sure if I understood correctly, but the mairie mentioned something to me about your trees, heaven knows why, did you want to chop them down or something? But it is true that we have been having a lot of strong winds around here, perhaps the EDF wanted you to do something before they fall on the line - I hear that these days a branch falling on the line can cost the owner a fortune!" If you get my drift.

Good luck


(Karen Dempsey) #9

Thank you Veronique for answering my question. I was beginning to suspect as much. There's no issue with distance, its purely height. As I said in my initial post, I have no intentions of going in guns blazing, can you imagine the response, I know how I'd feel. I will talk to her about it eventually. It was actually the mairie who approached me not the other way round. They asked me to sort it out with the neighbor as they are not happy about the height. So we'll see. Softly softly. Thanks again for the info.


(Karen Dempsey) #10

Thank you. I will take a look.


(Joseph Morris) #11

Totally agree, buyer be ware! Those trees have been there for many years, and probably were planted as a wind break for the winter months, know what my answer would be if new neighbors moved in and wanted me to cut down my 30 m high trees, should have bought something else, it’s not like their is a shortage of French property on the market is it.


(John Scully) #12

Excellent and accurate advice.


(Véronique Langlands) #13

You don't have a right to light, I'm afraid, that is like a view or other intangible things - the law doesn't concern itself with them. Rather than talkng to the Mairie or 3rd parties, if I were you I'd talk to your neighbour in very polite & friendly terms and test the waters.

Legally it is fairly simple: if the trees are more than 2 metres from your boundary, then they can be as tall as they can get - you can't do anything about it. If they are less than 2m from the boundary and over 2m tall AND over 30 years old, then that is also your tough luck. If they are less than 2m from the boundary, more than 2m tall and under 30 years old then you can ask your neighbour to cut them. If they are in EDF's way , EDF will talk to the owners & you may reap the benefit...


(Kwashie Konu) #14

Hmm, I would wholeheartedly agree with Gregor - don't go there: Trees are very emotive subjects, and not just amongst the french.

- The former antipodean owner of my French house had a bitter and acrimonious 7 year feud with my English neighbours when he was asked to trim the trees blocking his neighbours view. I have not been approached and would take an equally dim view.

- In my village house in a French Hamlet, certain trees were planted by "X's mother" and they have to remain in situ.

- You will probably find that the "weekend visitor" is passionately attached to her home and her trees, and you may end up alienating yourself from the community.


(Terry Williams) #15

Have a look in Useful Links/Property. There are two links near the bottom of the page on élagage and the rules on hedges etc. There might be something there on trees blocking light


(Robert Scotton) #16

Love this Gregor..."they are taking THEIR light. In return, they are giving you shade." A very different way of looking at things.

Begs the question, why wasn't it a problem before you bought the house?


(Sarah Hunt) #17

I agree, we have rubbed along well, and are in our second year now - when I read of the feuds others have with their French neighbours I shudder.

Misunderstandings can be easy - and last a long time.

Perhaps have a chat? someone nearby will have a telephone number I don't doubt - perhaps ask other neighbours for advice. I have found asking people the best way to move things forwards.


(Hilary Decaumont) #18

Like any legal action in France, you need money!

The first step would be a constat d'huissier to officially record things - I recently had to arrange one for a client which cost 260 Euros incl. VAT

This might be enough to force the neighbour into action - it depends on the neighbour.

If you have legal cover on your home insurance, the cost might be covered.


(Karen Dempsey) #19

Yup. Even if they weren't they have clearly been there a very long time, they are 3 times the height of the electricity lines.


(Gregor Hakkenberg) #20

I would be very careful with complains or demands to the neighbors, especially since you've just moved in. This is the stuff ardent feuds are made of. Don't pounce, but wait until at least the second or third visit before you bring up the trees.

When you bought the house the trees were already there, so you bought the grounds including the shade and the leaves.

In any case, one could argue that the trees are not taking YOUR light - since they were there first, they are taking THEIR light. In return, they are giving you shade.