Leaves are falling – so get busy now

Autumn means leaf fall and it can quickly lead to a problem with a neighbour if leaves from your trees are ending up in their garden or in their gutters and you do nothing about it.

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Fallen leaves can lead to several problems if not collected, from killing off lawns if they are allowed to compact, blocking drains or watercourses, or causing damp if they block a gutter and downpipe.

Diplomacy is the best option and best started earlier rather than later – especially as you get a good 12 months’ notice as the seasons change. However, laws are in place to head off problems and these start with a minimum planting distance from the site boundary.

If the tree will not reach two metres in height, the limit is 50cm; for trees that grow higher, the limit is increased to two metres, although distances may be changed locally by an arrêté municipal and you must check at the mairie.

Neighbours only normally complain if dead leaves cause problems, especially with rain, but you should offer to collect fallen leaves – and you need permission to enter their property to do so. You may need to offer to pay for mesh filters in the gutters if leaves are causing a problem there but, if you do agree to do this, it is best to get a letter signed by both parties in case of future problems.

Tree owners also need to beware of leaves falling on the public footpath as they are slippery and can cause falls – and your mairie may have an order in force for owners to clear leaves from the pavement.

Many communes do not allow leaves to be burned in the open air and you can check if the déchetterie has a composting zone or just a dump.