Keeping one's boundaries cleared near woodland etc

I had not realised that the house-owner is responsible for keeping clear a “firebreak” 50metre from their building… even if it means going past one’s own fence and onto the neighbours land/forest.

This “unknown/little known” law has come to the forefront since the many fires in the Gironde…

TRANSLATED QUOTE (from the link above) :
Because the events have caused “a collective awareness” among the inhabitants living closest to the forest massif, Luc Tharaud, municipal councilor responsible for the forest at Teich, confirms …
You have to see the number of letters we received, telling us “the owner must clean against my fence”.
We explain to them that No, it is not up to the owner of the forest plot, but up to them to do it for the first 50 metres from the house.
In the garden , measuring tape in hand, or even beyond the fence. It is the legal (if unknown) obligation of brushcutting (OLD).

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Firstly, what is that quote from, with its American spelling? Secondly, why is it not equally the responsibility of the forest owner rather than someone beyond his fence? Thirdly, I am not clear what we have to do, clear 50 metres or clear a metre at 50 metres? My fence is certainly not that far from the house but it is in forest and brush and I have often thought of clearing a metre, the one thing that puts me off is that I am convinced that the fence is damaged in places but fallen trees and thick brush keep the dogs in. Clearing might involve me in alot of fence repair too, and horrible chain link (I’ll never buy that stuff again) is not easy to repair securely.

BTW @Stella I never correct others’ spelling and only made my first comment because it was a quote from somewhere else, and I wondered from whom. Not a dig at you. :wink: :grinning:

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I often make spelling mistakes… what with wonky fingers, bad eyesight and general daftness… it’s just one of those things… no problems.

If you don’t live in a forest area… this doesn’t apply to you… rest easy…

However, if you should feel that your neighbour really ought to clear the brush/undergrowth/tangle against your fence… check if your fence is actually less than 50m from your house… (if it is less, then it’s up to you to do the clearing…) chat with the neighbour first though… just to keep things friendly…

I saw a report about this on the 13h news on TF1 not so long ago, where the sapeurs pompiers were visiting households to ‘remind’ them of their obligations.

We live in a town so it doesn’t concern us but I did think it was useful to know… and I thought clearly not everyone knows about it otherwise it wouldn’t have been in the news :wink:

I wonder if I can find the clip again.

Edit: Found it!!! Although I was wrong and it was la police municipale not les sapeurs pompiers.


Well we have forest on 2 sides and a large part of our garden is a continuation so perhaps I had better set about it. As to the neighbours, all absentees, one lives in Paris, the one I tried to buy the largest lot off, the other 2 not so far away and both have refused to sell.

I’m sure you’ve no worries… but bearing droughts/fires in mind… it’s no bad thing to take a look at your situation.

some sort of “break” in the undergrowth 50m away from your house is (I believe) the ideal…

This from our commune

Le débroussaillement est une obligation légale qui s’applique dans une zone de 50 à 100 m autour de vos bâtiments (suivant les secteurs).

Vous êtes responsable de ce débroussaillement,

(que la végétation soit chez vous ou sur une propriété voisine)

I can’t really understand how this can be enforceable. If my neighbour doesn’t abide by the various rules to do with clearing his garden, does that make me responsible, being within 50m ?

My understanding is if your neighbour’s land is within 50M of your house or other building then you’re still responsible for clearing the land regardless. The fact it’s not your land doesn’t absolve you of your legal responsibilities as the property owner.

However, you do have to first seek permission from the land owner. If they refuse to let you into their land then they become legally responsible. The text below is from the relevant page on the Gironde departmental site:

La réalisation du débroussaillement peut, par ailleurs, nécessiter d’intervenir sur la propriété de vos voisins, car la responsabilité du débroussaillement pèse sur le propriétaire de la construction à défendre. Il vous appartient alors de demander à vos voisins l’autorisation d’accéder à leur terrain et d’y effectuer les opérations de débroussaillement. S’ils s’y opposent, ces travaux seront à leur charge et deviennent de leur responsabilité

If the neighbour’s house or other buildings are within the 50M zone from your house then they’d already be responsible for clearing the area themselves (I guess in this case both parties would be jointly responsible for the overlapping bits in each zone).

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It makes sense to give the neighbour the opportunity to fulfil their obligations themselves… or allow you to go onto their land to clear the necessary bit… in order to fulfil your responsibility to “defend your property” .

and I know that similar work in our commune can be charged to the land owner if he decides to let the Mairie do it themselves rather than organise it himself… situations differ of course… and gentle discussions can solve lots of misunderstandings/problems…

anyone with queries should chat with someone at their Mairie…

That’s a bit vague, what kind of break, how wide, all the undergrowth for 50 metres in all directions, or what? And the thought has just occurred to me that my neighbour could demand to come into my garden and start slashing away. The whole thing seems bizarre to me.

I understand what it says, but for example, I have two neighbours one on each side. All of my land is within 50m of the boundaries between my land and both neighbours and all of both neighbours land is within 50m of my boundaries with them. So, if one of us doesn’t do what we should then who is responsible ? This won’t be an issue for me as we are all responsible people and do what is necessary but it seems crazy to me that a neighbour could just do nothing and then you would hold the responsibility for clearing his land or face a penalty.

I think what is being said is… each “home owner” is responsible for keeping his home safe from fire (ie safe from allowing a fire to spread via the undergrowth)

Folk can check to find out if they have this responsibility… there are all sorts of situations… but, as is being said… the one being highlighted is the need to stop fire spreading/creeping and endangering homes… the aim is to stop destruction of property and (more importantly) to save lives…

I wonder if that sort of rule applies to all dangers or just fires. For example, the neighbouring farmer’s huge trees are hanging over my house… hmm… will need to investigate.

What worries me most about this sort of situation is what an insurer would think if a house burned down because neighbours did not take care of thier land, even if that householder took care of his/hers properly. Could they say that it was the householders fault because they didn’t take care of their neighbours land for them and not pay out ?

In Woodland/forest areas… according to the links… Householder is responsible for ensuring the removal of undergrowth (ferns/brambles/whatever) at the 50m (sometimes 100m) line from the house… not responsible for clearing the neighbours entire landscape…

anyone with queries should discuss with their Mairie…

Insurance companies will surely check who is responsible for what… won’t they??
For most of us, this firebreak thingy doesn’t apply… but it makes sense to keep things safe, even so… as the family barbecue can cause all sorts of damage

When we acquired the “taillis” which adjoined our property, the first thing I did was attack it with the brush cutter. We had already managed to clear about 20m from the house (which was the limit of our property) in previous years, but the taillis was resolutely overgrown with brambles and bracken.

I also cleared a 5-6 metre swathe along the edge of the “taillis” with the neighbour’s small pine plantation, but conifers being what they are, some are as dry as a bone, and some have branches that easily extend over that distance into our property at a height that is inaccessible. This is where the whole responsibility thing falls down in my opinion. The neighbour is too old, frail and stingy to do anything about her small plantation. If ever there is a fire there one day, it will almost certainly carry over onto our “taillis” or onto our house, if the wind is blowing.

there are sometimes difficult situations, which discussions between neighbours cannot sort out… for whatever reason.

If you have serious worries, speak with your Mairie… They’ll explain what you can and can’t do on someone elses property (trees aren’t quite the same as undergrowth, as we all know)… also, they can contact the owner to discuss/find a way forward if necessary.

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For me, the simplest way would be to buy the land :wink: but she’s not up for that currently and I’m not prepared to pay the asking price she would want even if she was. As it is, she doesn’t want to pay a logger to come and cut the trees down (which are well beyond maturity) so that the brush could then be cleared. It is one of those catch-22 situations. I doubt her home insurance would even cover the eventuality of a fire, as it isn’t obligatory to have wood insurance for areas under a certain size, and it is her second home (which as we know, generally have a lower level of cover).

Pressure can be put on the landowner… (gently but officially by the Mairie) and (I believe) that debts incurred by having essential work done… can be attached to the property (not sure on this, but I know something similar was done locally a few years ago… when it was essential to make things safe)