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Thinking about a small garden? Find out what is allowed and what is not in Germany

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Are you thinking about a garden or a green oasis behind the house? Welcome to Germany. There are rules for everything. When can the lawn be mowed, how often is it allowed to grill and is it allowed to burn waste? Find out here

There are rules for everything in Germany. Even your small garden at the back of the house! Expats are always beused by the idea of order and structure in Germany. Find our more about what you can and cannot do in your garden or when you can do it.

Lawn mower times

At what times of the day is the lawn mower allowed to be used in Germany?

In residential and recreational areas, it is generally forbidden to operate the motorized lawnmower on working days (Monday to Saturday) between 8:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. or on Sundays or public holidays.

In many municipalities, further restrictions result from a local statute. For example, in accordance with Section 17 of the Police Ordinance of the City of Leipzig, motorized garden tools may only be used on weekdays from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

What to do in case of a noisy lawn mower

What can you do if the neighbor with the lawnmower does not observe the prescribed rest periods?

If you want to keep the “peace on the fence”, you should first kindly inform your noisy neighbors about the quiet times and ask them to consider your own need for rest before taking legal action. 

If all attempts are unsuccessful, there is the option of calling the police so that they can take action against the disturbance, or report the neighbors to the community so that they can initiate a fine against them. 

In Germany, the neighbors can be sued for an omission at the civil department of the local court, combined with the threat of being fined or detained for each case of contravention. With all this, however, one should bear in mind that this will certainly not improve the neighborly relationship.

Pumping stream water

Are you allowed in Germany to pump water out of the stream to irrigate your own garden, which is directly adjacent to the garden?

In water law, a distinction is made between owner and resident use on the one hand and public use on the other. The owner and resident use is aimed at owners of properties with or near bodies of water and users of the same, such as tenants or lessees.

These may take water from surface waters for their own needs – even using a pump – without permission, provided that this does not affect others and no adverse change in the water quality, no significant reduction in the water flow or any other impairment of the water balance are to be expected. 

Other people have only public use of water. This includes the right to remove water from surface waters only by scooping with hand vessels, e.g. buckets or watering cans, in small and harmless quantities without permission.

Pumpin water due to drought

Can the competent authorities prohibit the abstraction of water from surface waters in the event of persistent drought?

One of the tasks of the water authorities is to monitor the water quality and the flow of surface waters. If they come to the conclusion that the withdrawal of water affects the water balance, they can prohibit it.

You feel like grilling?

How often can you grill in your garden in Germany?

Even if mild summer evenings in this country invite you to grill – you shouldn’t bother your neighbors with the smoke from your own charcoal grill an unlimited number of times. 

There is no concrete legal regulation; the case law is not entirely uniform on this issue. For example, the Bonn District Court has ruled that from April to September you can grill once a month if the neighbors are informed two days in advance.

Height of a hedge

What is the maximum height of a hedge directly on the border to the neighbour’s property and must boundary distances be observed?

In principle, every owner has the right to enclose their property, i.e. to erect a fence or to plant a hedge. In doing so, however, he must observe the provisions of building law and neighboring law. 

So for exampe for plantings, depending on the height, certain limit distances (in Saxony between 0.5 and 2 m) are observed. Plants up to 2 m in height must be at least 0.5 m away from the border. 

If the neighbor violates these provisions, the removal of the plants or their cutting back to the permissible height can be requested. In some countries, however, the right to pruning is limited to the months outside the growing season.

Overhanging branches

Can overhanging branches from the neighbor’s tree simply be cut off or overgrown roots removed?

In Germany, branches or roots from a neighbor’s tree that impair the use of one’s own property are not be tolerated. If the neighbor refuses to remove overhanging branches or if he allows a deadline set for him to pass unused, then you can take action yourself. 

Before doing this, however, you should find out whether there is a tree protection statute in the community that prohibits or restricts such interventions. 

If roots have penetrated your own property, a prior request with a deadline is not required. 

Branches and roots that do not significantly affect the use of your own property must, however, be tolerated. If the cutting of branches or roots is permitted by way of self-help, the neighboring property must not be entered.

Basically, the fruit belongs to the owner of the tree, even if it is on branches that hang over the property line. However, if the fruits have already fallen on the neighbour’s property, they can pick them up and keep them. The neighbors are not allowed to pick them, and shaking the tree is not allowed.

Autumn foliage

What can you do if the foliage from your neighbor’s trees constantly blows onto your property in autumn?

You can only defend yourself against the leaves of your neighbors’ trees in special, exceptional cases. The courts generally regard leaves as a minor and therefore acceptable pollution. Compensation for the removal will hardly be possible in court. Shoveling the foliage back over the property line is also not a good idea.

This is not only an unfriendly act towards the neighbors, but can also constitute a violation of the waste law, for which a fine threatens. In the end, it only remains to remove the leaves yourself in most cases.

Keeping bees

Do you have to register or even have it approved if you want to keep bees in the garden?

For reasons of animal disease protection, those who want to keep bees must notify the competent authority of this at the latest at the start of their activity, stating the number of bee colonies and their location. In most federal states, the city or district veterinary office is responsible for this notification.

Surveillance cameras

If our garden is vandalized, can you install surveillance cameras? Do the neighbors have to tolerate video surveillance?

The right to informational self-determination, which guarantees everyone the protection of their personal data, also applies to relationships between private individuals. The person affected by video surveillance can therefore demand that surveillance be omitted if the interest of the operator of the surveillance system in protecting his property from unauthorized attacks does not outweigh the person’s personal rights.

This prerequisite is given here because the danger to the property of the system operator does not come from the neighbor. The system operator must therefore exclude the neighbour’s garden from video surveillance.

Dispute with a neighbor

Where can you turn if you have a dispute with your garden neighbor and don’t want to go to court straight away? Is there such a thing as an arbitration board?

The dispute among garden neighbors is particularly suitable because of its personal impact for an arbitration at a municipal arbitration board, in some federal states – in Saxony – also called justice of the peace.

Proceeding there is much cheaper than in court. Only a fee is charged to the municipal arbitration and arbitration boards, which varies from country to country in principle between 10 and 50 euros and is at least 20 euros when a settlement is concluded.

There are also writing and postage expenses. In most federal states (but not e.g. in Saxony and Thuringia), such a procedure before an arbitration board is even a prerequisite for going to court.

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Expaturm aims to help educate Expats in Germany on key issues that they will have to deal with while living in Germany by providing everything you need to know about Banking, Healthcare, Lifestyle, and Housing in Germany
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