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Can I make my French neighbours drain stagnant water from their land?

Rainwater basin near our home is breeding ground for tiger mosquitoes

A stagnant pool of water in a garden

Stagnant water can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes Pic: elmar gubisch / Shutterstock

Reader question: Our neighbours have a mare [pond or basin] near our property that collects rainwater and which they water plants from. It is full of mosquito larvae and we have a lot of tiger mosquitoes in our garden. They refuse to cover or drain it. What can we do?

Stagnant water can often be a problem, particularly in rural areas.

As you also mention, it can become a breeding ground for insects, especially mosquitoes. Tiger mosquitoes are of particular concern because they can spread infections such as dengue fever.

By law, property owners are required to keep gardens and land clean for health and sanitary reasons – creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes goes against these measures.

You said in your original email question to us that you had reached out to your neighbour to reach an amicable solution. That is always the best course of action in these kinds of cases.

However, you can take things a step further if you cannot make progress that way.

Taking the issue to your mairie

As with most neighbour disputes, if speaking to them fails to bear fruit you can take further action by notifying your mairie. 

Particularly in a smaller community, the mayor may speak to your neighbours directly about the issue.

Mayors have the power to order property owners to clean up their land.

In addition, they can order work to be done at the property owner’s expense, in which case it would be carried out by council staff.

An alternative to going to the mairie is to request the (free) help of a mediator called a conciliateur de justice to help find a solution.

There may be grounds for legal action in the courts, as a last resort, though we would suggest obtaining further advice on your situation. In the first instance you could use one of the free Points de Justice to find out more about this avenue.

Read more: Five things you can use the government’s new legal app for

Health and safety concerns 

Your situation differs slightly from previous articles we have written about neighbour disturbances – such as noisy children playing too loudly – because your concern over mosquitoes does not in itself meet the classic criteria for neighbour nuisance, which come under headings of unsightly views, bad smells or loud noise. 

If the stagnant water causes bad smells, however, this could be applicable. 

However, in this case there is also a potential public health concern. In larger communes you could specifically direct your concerns to the service communal d'hygiène et de santé (hygiene and public health service).

It may decide to send an inspector to check on the situation. If a health disturbance is found, the inspector can issue a reminder to the property owners about their responsibilities to maintain their land appropriately. 

Related articles

Noisy neighbours: France’s most outlandish and notorious disputes
Tiger mosquitoes: How you can help stop their spread in France

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