Neighbourhood law in Germany: What you need to know
Your rights and obligations
A good neighborhood is priceless, but it's not uncommon for legal disputes to arise. In such cases, it's helpful to have recourse to legal regulations. Whether it's about loud music, fruit trees on the property line, or other disagreements, in some cases, neighborhood disputes must be resolved in civil court. Neighborhood law sets the framework for relationships between neighboring property owners. The fundamental premise of the law and neighborhood relations is mutual consideration.
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Neighborhood law in real estate
The legal regulations for neighborhood matters can be found in the Civil Code (BGB). In addition, state building codes can serve as a source of law. A common dispute among neighbors arises when shrubs or trees that are too large are located directly on the property line or extend onto the neighboring property. There are state-specific regulations that include requirements for the specific border distance. The distance at which planting may occur near the border also depends on the plant's growth height. It is generally established in the law that the felling of trees may only occur in exceptional cases. According to § 911 of the German Civil Code, it is also permitted to keep fruit that falls from the neighbor's tree onto one's own property. However, picking fruit from the neighbor's property is not allowed.
Rights and obligations in neighborhood law
In matters of neighborhood law, the principle of mutual consideration must be observed. This means, for example, that music must not be played too loudly and garden tools that make a lot of noise must not be used on rest days or without prior agreement. Another specific right is the right to hammer and use ladders. This allows property owners to carry out certain repairs on their own house or property on the neighboring property area, for example, if it is much easier to clean their own rain gutter from the neighbor's property. It should be noted that the neighbor must be informed of this plan in advance with a reasonable deadline, so that they can prepare accordingly. Furthermore, the person carrying out these works is obliged to ensure reasonable protection and to be liable for any damage to the neighboring property. Quiet times and rest days are also typical examples of neighborhood issues. In general, in residential areas, there are quiet times between 1 pm and 3 pm as well as between 10 pm and 6 am. Recognized cases of disturbance of peace include noises caused by machines, loud music, animals, people (loud conversations), vehicles, and work-related noise.
Partial sale and neighbouring rights
In the case of a partial sale, in which owners sell a part of their property to raise capital, the question often arises as to what extent neighbor law affects the parties involved. In this case, it is important to note that a person with a usufructuary right also has the right to defend against disturbing neighbors. This is regulated in § 1065 of the German Civil Code (BGB), which stipulates that a person with a usufructuary right is equated with the owner. After the partial sale, the contract partner is registered as a co-owner in the land register and thus has the same defense rights as a full owner to defend against disturbing influences from neighbors.
Out-of-court settlement in neighborhood disputes
Before disputes between neighbors end up in civil court, there are a number of ways to reach an out-of-court settlement. Nevertheless, in these cases it may be advisable to consult a lawyer specializing in neighborhood law to ensure that all legal requirements are appropriately considered. In general, federal states require a pre-trial out-of-court process before any civil neighborhood legal proceedings can be initiated. This means that an attempt at mediation must be made before a lawsuit can be filed. The mediation process is significantly less expensive than a court proceeding, with costs usually in the two- to three-digit range. Only if the mediation attempt fails, is it possible to file a lawsuit.