A BEAUTIFUL and unobstructed view is one of the key requirements when house hunting in Spain.
And naturally it is a concern for many what exactly can be built next door.
I often get questions about how high can a neighbour build and what exactly can be built.
It normally means speaking to the town hall or an architect and the outcome is normally positive with the buyer happily putting pen to paper.
So in they move, and life is fine in their luxurious garden with wonderful views and scenery… until one day disaster strikes!
Suddenly, the neighbour decides to plant some trees close to their boundary.
The trees are small and they go unnoticed when planted.
However, some species can grow more than 50cm a year meaning that in just a couple of years they can pose a sizeable problem.
Whatever you do, never take the law into your own hands. Cutting any trees can end in a hefty fine and even criminal action.
So what can you do if these trees start to block your view?
Well, whatever you do, never take the law into your own hands. Cutting any trees can end in a hefty fine and even criminal action.
Surprisingly enough, the Spanish Civil Code applicable since its publication in 1889 does not contain any article referring to any limits regarding the height of trees.
Perhaps the ancient law maker was already green orientated.
Indeed, there is only one section which deals with trees between neighbouring plots. And unfortunately, it is a veritable minefield.
According to this rule no one can plant trees near to a neighbouring boundary, as set by local regulations or local customs. And if no local rule has been set or a local custom exist, then this would be two metres from the dividing boundary if they are tall trees.
Small trees or bushes can be however planted a minimum of 50 centimetres from the boundary.
Therefore, an owner can demand that any trees of the said sizes which do not respect the respective minimum distances from the boundaries be cut down.
As for the height of trees planted more than two metres from the boundary, there is nothing set in stone. Indeed, it is up to the court in question to determine how big a problem it really is. The court will therefore take a number of factors into account.
First of all, do the trees block air or light to the neighbouring property? And is there anything in local law that would help here?
The precedents also refer to what kind of trees are considered bushes. These include Cypress trees that often serve as a dividing hedge between properties. Despite the fact that they can grow extremely high.
Therefore, the first thing that can be done is to verify what is the allowable distance and heights set by the local council, if indeed a rule has been set.
In my experience, the only reference made to height of trees is in the building regulations affecting the height of boundary walls.
This allows a certain height for a wall and the rest can be filled up with a hedge. Some authorities rule that this hedge can only reach a certain height.
Another thing one might do is make enquiries to see if there is any local custom, which provides for different distances to the boundary and height of trees. This would eventually be subject to proof in a court of law.
To conclude, if the trees are tall and planted within two metres from the boundary or within a different distance set in local regulations, then you can have them cut down.
If the trees or bushes are low, and they are within 50 centimetres of the boundary, nothing can be done with the height unless there is a local regulation or custom which limits the height of dividing walls in which some is composed by a hedge. The excess can therefore be cut down.
However, if the trees are outside the two-metre boundary – and there is no local law – there is nothing you can do.
As mentioned before, the law maker had a clear green orientation and anticipated the main policies which are now being demanded, not only locally, but from the EU regarding the protection of nature and the flora as part of a sustainable and adequate environment.