A neighbour's animals in my field

A neighbour has asked if they can put their horses in our field and I've agreed. I know that there's some law that, if they keep animals on my land for a period of time they can claim the land as theirs, but I've never seen anywhere what period that is.
It's been widely reported that a written agreement, drawn up by a Notaire is desirable/necessary, but would a letter from the neighbour to me stating that they'd never claim the land as theirs be sufficient? Alternatively, if I were to put a horse, donkey, goat in the field myself, would that enable me to keep ownership?
Can anyone, please, give definitive answers to these, please?

As money has changed hands and he has got you to sign for it I would visit a local Notair who speaks English for advice. As I have said we live in Pas de Calais so I do not know if the same applies to your region, but I would get legal advice so you know what if any action, you need to take.

Thanks Brian, we were making jokes about getting some sheep, but it looks like this is not a joke anymore! ;-)

Take the 'paper' in question to a notaire for advice. The thing to establish is whether it is 'your' hay although your land. That is decided by grazing rights usually. If you are worried, get a couple of goats and drop the farmer a note to say sorry but now that you have goats... It always remains your land, the question is about use and the most useful is to retain grazing rights.

Hi everybody,

This post makes me a bit worried... An 'agriculteur' mows our land every year and pays us a small amount of money for the hay. Each time he makes us sign a paper that we have received an amount of money. Does this mean he has a claim on our land? And if yes, what kind of claim? Will we have a problem when we want to sell the house? Thanks for any help!

Hello, Tim.

Good advice, thank you.

I'd like to talk more with you and have sent a "Friend Request" so we can message without clogging up this thread, if that's OK with you.



Before anyone goes down my throat I must say that I love France. I have a French girlfriend and have travelled it extensively. However every time I've had business with tradesmen/legal dealings with French people despite my being being very polite, clear and precise and honourable it always ends up with the French person trying to 'rip me off' or by evasion or changing a previously simple agreement. I've also had problems with thieves and to be truthful it's leaves a very sour taste in my mouth to the point that I'm beginning to wonder if it's time to move on to a more honourable location, or am I just old fashioned ?

So my advice would be go to a Notaire/Advocat and get a legal document stating an amount of money for grazing rights and get your neighbour to sign it, make sure there is a clause stating clearly how to end the agreement.

I only know that you must not receive any money from anyone using your land as if you do they have a claim on it. I am not sure of the legal details but certainly a Notaire would be the correct route to take to have this confirmed. We have let our neighbour use our land in the past for free and had no come back. We live in Pas de Calais so cannot speak for other regions. Bon chance ....

Dear Ian,

I really hope you will read and digest this post. This is a situation which makes professionals like me have ongoing nightmares.

If you want to 'lend' your land to your 'nice' neighbours, for nothing, here in France, and you want to protect your land, protect your liability, and get it back when you need to after the appropriate notice period (congé), you absolutely must not do it by taking a copy of a standard 'prêt à usage' or 'Commodat' – which by the way is full of spelling and syntax mistakes – and by « working with a dictionary and Google Translate to hand ». !

Sorry but that is the potential road to disaster.

Best advice : Get a good Notaire to draw up the contract for your specific case, and understand exactly what you are signing, in every detail before you sign.

Second advice : If you don't understand legal French at least get get someone who does to check it over and explain it thoroughly to you before you sign.

Third advice : If you are not prepared to do this, don't lend the land, don't sign anything, or be prepared to suffer the consequences.

Thank you again, Rosie.

I'm working on it now dictionary and Google Translate to hand!!!


It is all very sad, but unfortunately situations do change and what seems like a friendly arrangement re. land can often get out of hand. That said, of course there are exceptions.

My suggestion for what it is worth, it that you talk to the people and advise them that is in their interests as much as yours, and that as no money is changing hands, both of you need legal advice (same Notaire) to ensure neither side becomes 'guilty by ommision'.

Taking a worse case scenario, and your neighbours have to sell up, it is quite likely as others have pointed out that new owners - who COULD be farmers, would buy with all the 'rights implied' - and you might not even be aware of it until they descended on you. So it's not just the existing situation to consider, but any future one.

Land stays, laws stay - people move on.

NB I am not a lawyer, but have a healthy 'respect' for laws appertaining to land in France.

Here is an out of date article in rather merdique français du notaire that simply confirms what Brian and the other commentators have warned:" Watch out ! "..... http://www.onb-france.com/immobilia/FAQ-droit-de-pature-et-bail-a.html . It's a simple but interesting question that you have brought up, Ian. I have recently bought a poplar grove and a field by a river and the adjoint du maire had been grazing his horses in the field, until I purchased.I only met him once and said he could continue sans problème..your thread has made me think that I'd best get it sorted out properly. Thanks..bon courage.

Hello Ian,

The absolutely vital question is: are your neighbours farmers or registered centre equestre or similar?

I’ve heard (French friend of a friend) that if the neighbor does anything - such as trimming the borders etc - then it can be argued that there is an verbal contract in place which gives the neighbor use of the land in exchange for his work…
All a bit worrying, as it makes you think twice about accepting any ’ friendly’ assistance !!!

As an addendum, the people concerned are not farmers [or peasants :-)] but just a couple with some horses. They live down the road and she runs a very small cattery and breeds cats (Burmese or something). She has several dogs including some rescued greyhounds. He is a 'paysagiste' who has just put his back out very badly recently and who was going to clear brambles from the field in question and put a three-sliding-pole gate in the fence for access.

They are just a nice friendly couple who need somewhere for their horses as they are finding the rent on the fields they are using at the moment a bit daunting (those fields are a bit far away as well).

I'll speak to them when I can and see if I can broach the subject without offending them and probably end up at the Notaire's to boot!

Thanks to everyone for their responses.

Here is my Pret a Usage/Commodat.

Note the lack of accents so please put them into yours when using this template.

Just so you know, it was the one our Notaire drew up originally and which we adapted when we re-let to a local farmer. Originally the pret allowed animals - this template doesn't, so you will need to add them back - specifying which animals, how many maximum, and arrangements for water, shelter and fencing, and so on, if necessary.

Good luck - pass it by some helpful French neighbours just to be sure it fits your needs.

Tell me if the link doesn't work!!! and yes I know I spelt commodat wrong!

Hi, Rosie,

A copy would be most useful. Thank you for the kind offer.

When we first arrived 11 years ago we didn't use our field and our neighbor had his horses grazing there as it was open to his own field. We never did a contract or written agreement, but he paid us 1 euro rent a year, just to make it official (and he paid by cheque!), only as another neighbor (a Parisian lawyer) advised us to ask for this. Last year we bought our two horses and obviously needed the field, so he put in a partition to separate the four and thouroughly cleaned the field for my two. The existing electric fencing is still powered through his box and as they have a well, they fill up our horses' buckets morning and night when they do so for their own horses. I don't know what I would do without that and they are always there if we need advice or help. Maybe we are just lucky, but we never even thought of talking to a notaire - isn't there such a thing is neighborhood help anymore?

Oooh whatever you do don't ask for ANYTHING in return!!! (Tricky even to accept a gift.)

That opens up a whole new can of worms and is not to be undertaken lightly (like marriage).

I will try to get my copy for all to see - watch this space

Rosie, I'd like a copy please. I've allowed a neighbour to graze his goats for the last 2-3 months and have asked him to move them as we are putting the house on the market. He says he's nowhere else to put them as he's living illegally on agricole land (complicated, he can't afford to pay the required and outrageously high cotisations of a farmer).

I guess I could threaten him with exposure should it ever get nasty, but we've not insisted and he does odd jobs for us in return. We like the goats and it helps keep the grass down, but now I'm thinking that I should put a stop to it or get an agreement in place!