Reader Question: What can I do if a neighbour regularly has bonfires in their garden?
Starting a bonfire in one’s garden – either as a social activity or to burn waste – is generally against the law in France, and is punishable by a fine of up to €450.
If you have noticed that your neighbour is starting bonfires in their garden, you can contact your mayor, who has official powers regarding this sort of issue.
Burning garden waste is forbidden under the 2020 n૦2020-105 law relating to waste and the circular economy, as well as the environmental code.
The ban applies both to open-air fires and to incinerators, which release toxic substances, especially if the waste burnt in them is wet or contains bits of plastic.
It should be noted that there are several exceptions to the rules and that people can burn waste if:
- Their commune does not have a rubbish dump
- Their commune does not offer specific rubbish collections for the type of waste concerned
- Their commune requires residents to clear their land to prevent wildfires (débroussaillement)
- There are measures in place to prevent certain epidemics from spreading
- There are measures in place against certain invasive plant species
As stated above, if your neighbour is burning garden waste and none of these exemptions are in place, you should contact your commune’s mairie.
Your maire is responsible for making sure that residents respect the rules in place.
It may also be possible to launch legal action against a trouble anormal de voisinage (neighbourhood disturbances beyond what would usually be expected), if the fires are affecting your everyday life because of their smell and the smoke they let off.
In this case, you may be able to obtain damages from the neighbour lighting the fires, but only if they do so repeatedly, as an isolated incident would be unlikely to be deemed significant enough.
New rules mean, however, that you will need to try and resolve the dispute amicably (such as through a conciliateur de justice) before being able to take the matter to a tribunal.