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Is there a way in France to get my neighbour to tidy his messy garden?

You can force someone to clean their garden if it is causing an ‘environmental issue’. We explain what that means and the steps to take

A neighbour’s messy garden can be a nuisance Pic: Sina Ettmer Photography / Shutterstock

Reader question: Can I oblige my neighbour to tidy his garden? It’s a mess and spoils the look of our home

A neighbour does have a legal requirement to keep their garden in order if it is deemed to be an environmental issue, states article L2213-25 of France’s Code général des collectivités territoriales. 

This  covers properties located within a residential area or within 50 metres of another property. Another part of the ruling, see further in the article, relates to keeping gardens tidy in areas prone to forest fires.

Issues that are deemed an ‘environmental problem’ include a garden that is extremely overgrown, one that is full of rubbish or rubble that could be a health hazard or one that is overrun by rats or other vermin. 

It is thought that the garden would have to be in a particularly bad state for local authorities to intervene. For example, if there are children’s toys scattered around and the grass is overgrown it may not be enough to persuade the authorities to get involved.

How can I get my neighbour to clean their garden?

The first action to take is to try to resolve the issue with your neighbour amicably. This can either be by asking them to tidy their garden or sending them a letter requesting them to remedy the problem.

It is best to send a registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt (lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception) as you may want proof of this letter if the situation escalates. 

You should also take pictures of the garden and try to gather as much evidence as possible to show that the garden is causing an environmental issue to the neighbourhood. 

If your neighbour refuses the request in your letter or does not respond, the next step is to approach your mairie

Local authorities can then request that your neighbour tidies their garden at their expense, if the garden is deemed to be an environmental issue. 

If this work is not carried out within one month (or another time period specified) the mairie can organise the work to be done, at the neighbour’s expense. The neighbour must also pay a fine of €100 for every day after the specified deadline that the work is not done. 

If the neighbour continues to refuse, local authorities may pursue further action, including a legal process.

Overgrown gardens in forest fire areas

Similar rules to the above exists for land that is in an area at high-risk of forest fires. 

All pieces of land that are located within 200 metres of woods, forests, moors or scrubland must be cleared of overgrown vegetation. 

If a neighbour refuses to do this, similar steps to those outlined above apply, including first sending a letter and secondly asking the mairie to intervene. 

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