Outdoor Activities - Pain for the Neighbor?

During the summer, we all enjoy the lazy Sundays with the sun and friends outdoors. Even when the sun is shining, a bad weather front can easily come up - of another kind. Neighbors often get annoyed when their neighbor live outdoors like they wish to do. LG2G has collected the most important "golden rules" to have peace with another - including your neighbor.


Real BBQ fans know not only all about their grillables but also how to avoid disturbing the neighborhood. The last thing you want to do is disturb your neighbors with extreme smoke puffing into their apartments. Be careful where you put the grill. BBQ party goers will rejoice with a judgment of AG Westerstede of July 3, 2009 (re 22 C 614/09). A general prohibition of having a grill party in the garden or on the terrace is not permitted. In other words, your landlord may not absolutely forbid you having friends in the yard and grilling.

Party: When the sun goes down...

Neighbors have to cope with persons being in the back yard grilling and enjoying themselves. In spite of how the party is going, it is better complying with the absolute nighttime peace period from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m. When the time turns 10 in the evening, it's time to move indoors and prevent any annoyance. Music and conversation are only to be heard indoors and not also outdoors (so called "Zimmerlautstärke"). Whenever the cops have to come, due to the fact of your disturbing the nighttime peace, you can expect a hefty fine.

Children's Commotion

Just as much as adults, children are to enjoy the balcony or garden to the fullest. They have to have the possibility playoff playing. Neighbors must tolerate children - at least when the times of peace and rules of the house are obeyed (LG Heidelberg, judgment of October 23, 1996, re 8 S 2/96). Since there are so very many disputes on children's noise from neighbors, parliament has passed in 2011 a bill to the Federal Law on Omission Protection (Bundesimmigrationsgesetz) that explicitly excludes children's noises as grounds for a complaint in court. It will not be considered as "noise" in terms of the law. An intentional side effect is that day kindergardens and playgrounds are easier to start.

"Turn your Radio on"?

Want to watch the Superbowl or your other favorite sports event outdoors? Sure as long as you do not get too turned on to the volume. However, during nighttime peace (10 p.m. to 7 a.m.), these gadgets ought to remain turned off. (OLG Oldenburg, judgment of July 29, 2002, re 13 U 53/02). It can become pretty expensive when your neighbor is disturbed during quiet hours at night - especially when the police are called. When your program can be followed in a terraced house further down the block, then your radio is definitely too loud (OLG Munich, judgment of September 03, 1991, re 25 U 1838/91).

Mowing the Lawn on the Weekend?

Germany does not want to have lawns mowed on public holidays and Sundays the whole day and on working day not from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. The limitations for grass trimmers, leaf blowers, leaf collectors may only be operated during 7 and 9 a.m. as well as 5 and 8 p.m. When this is not obeyed, you will not only risk commotion with the neighbors but also a fine. Of course, exceptions exist for apparatuses with the EU environmental label "Blue Angel" as well as low noise hand gadgets.

Rumble in the Jungle?

When the tenant is to maintain an English lawn, then that ought to be explicitly stipulated in the rental contract - the more detailed the better. If the contract says nothing, the landlord can only demand easy tasks, that do not need much time, to be done, like lawn mowing, weeding, and raking leaves (OLG Düsseldorf, judgment October 7, 2010, re 10 U 70/04). Courts tend to be generous which jobs the tenant has to do in the garden and decide in the individual case between permitted "run to seed" gardens and not permitted wild or neglected gardens (LG Köln, judgment of January 11, 1996, re 1 S 149/95).

Flowers on the Balcony: „Your rights end with the balcony.

A tenant may embellish the balcony with tables, chairs, and flower pots. Flower boxes may be hung on the balcony over the street, however it must be guaranteed that neither pedestrians below will be endangered nor the boxes will fall down (LG Hamburg, judgment of December 07, 2004, re 316 S 79/04). Exceptions can be true for condominiums: the assembly of owners may determine in order to maintain a uniform appearance of the building that no flower boxes may hang outside a balcony.

Watering is to be done with care! Water may not run down the wall or drop onto balconies below. Since the walls do not belong to the areas being rented, you need your landlord's permission to change something. When your flowerage is hanging down extremely low you will have to cut it back. You can have flower pots and more on your windowsills when you have your landlord's permission.

Creepers on the Wall

Trellises are permitted in a normal scope. When choosing the climber, do pick such kind that does interfere much with the brickwork because you will only with difficulty be able to tear them off when moving out. This means you will have to repaint the wall again - and pay this yourself. As the rule goes: The tenant has to return the premises in the same condition as he received it.

The Root of Bad Mood: When Roots Ruin a Neighbor's Garden

When your neighbor is disturbed by branches hanging over into his yard he can demand that you cut them at the plot's border. When you do not, then your neighbor can do it himself and be reimbursed for his costs. Reckon on the fact that this neighbor will make as much costs as legally reimbursable! When a tree excessively throws a shadow so that the yard next-door is only in the shade, your neighbor may demand and sue you in court to have the tree felled. However, some few trees are protected (e.g. copper beech). In that case, the protection of the environment prevails and the tree may not be felled (LG Koblenz judgment July 03, 2007, re 6 S 162/06).

You do not have to tolerate the roots of neighbor's trees when they damage your garden. The AG Munich arrived at an opinion (judgment of February 12, 2010 re 121 C 15076/09) if roots of a tree rampantly grow into your yard, you can demand the roots to be clipped.

Frontier Area: "From the Border Line on, Everybody Owns the Half"

As a rule, the borders between lots are visually marked with fences, walls or hedges. When planting in the "frontier", the rule is that that half of a plant on your neighbor's lot belongs to him - and vice versa. So be aware where you plant your flowers and shrubs. Esthetic criteria are irrelevant: everyone may plant as one likes! However, state law might exceptionally have some guidelines considering any buildings and plantings. These state regulations will be typically relevant for allotted settlements (Kleingartensiedlungen). By the way, we deliberately used here the word "frontier" and not actually correct "border" because we wanted to hint to a phenomenon called in German "Maschendrahtzaun". It would too much to explain this right here and now. However, when interested ask any German you know and you will see his or her eyes rolling...

Fertilizer and Manure

Everybody may distribute fertilizer and manure as well as plant protections. When doing so make sure that you follow instructions on use. Such is not to go into your neighbor's yard. Therefore, make sure when distributing keep the stuff on your side of the fence - no matter whether gas or grain. When it does happen, you can be held liable for damages (BGH re V ZR 54/83). However, when the manure is professionally distributed, you cannot do anything against it (OLG Düsseldorf judgment July 28, 1995, re 11 U 24/94).

Compost Heaps

Nothing against a compost pile but the worst place for it is under your neighbor's nose, so better keep it out of sight and smell and do not lure insects or rodents. Americans and Canadian know the lovely little rascals of raccoons from home. They have immigrated to Germany, too. Better not install your pile directly at the neighbor's fence, the LG Munich judged on December 23, 1986 (re 23 O 14452/86) that upon demand of the neighbor it is to be removed.

Sight Protection: No Burka for Balcony

When shielding the terrace or balcony to ward off sight or sun, it all depends how much and if the outer appearance of the building is negatively influenced or disturbing. Further is relevant whether or not it is loosely attached or firmly affixed to the building. Have to drill a number of holes? Best have a chat with your landlord and ask him for permission. Blind walls may only be added when they are not higher as the balustrade. Want to fully drape your balcony with curtains? You need your landlord's permission (AG Münster judgment July 18, 2001, re 48 C 2357/01).

Blinded by the Light

Umbrellas are always permitted as they are not affixed to the building. Awnings, however, need permission as they are structural alterations which change the appearance of the house. How the building is to look is a decision of the owner. It is relevant whether the blind disturbs the looks of the building. When it comes to court, judges will decide in the individual case, as precedents will hardly be relevant. The more harmonically it fits into the appearance and the less noticeable the more it will have to be tolerated (OLG Zweibrücken, judgment February 2, 2004, re 3 W 251/03). When you want to be on the safe side, it is better to ask your landlord first.

No landlord will be able to forbid you drying your clothing on the balcony when you use a mobile clothes drying stand. However, do not turn the balcony into a laundry: dryers do not belong on the balcony (German Permanent Arbitrary Court, decision of January 13, 2003, re Sch/K/VI).

When wanting to dry your clothes outdoors with a rotary stand (so-called "Wäschespinne") that is always permissible, when the stand will be put up only when needed. It is thus comparable to a mobile stand (OLG judgment of December 23, 1999, re 3 W 198/99. When the stand is connected with the ground, it then constitutes a constructional alteration, which is only permissible with the landlord's approval.

Puffing Smoke

Smoking on one's balcony or in one's garden is permitted! Your neighbors will have to cope with your exhaust because you are smoking outdoors. You might as well try to prevent pedestrians from lighting a cigarette in front of your house. This remains true even when the wind changes - as long as the puff is not of permanent nature (AG Wennigsen, judgment September 14, 2001, re 9 C 156/01). You can only do something against when it not "normal" smoke anymore. The landlord can determine a smoking ban on jointly used spaces.

Your Balcony is not a Trash Can

Generally, it's nobody's business how you style your balcony. It is no problem to leave the garbage or beverage boxes on the balcony when you want to return them the next day. Be careful! Nobody may be pestered with awful smells or vermin. Best anyway is to bring trash away as soon as possible because often garbage on the balcony can result in a fire with serious damages. The same is true for the real estate itself, it may not be polluted with litter. In such case, you will not only have to come up for the disposal costs but also reckon to be fined (LG Frankfurt a. M., judgment of June 8, 2005, re 5/33 Ns 8910 Js 219753/03 (2/04).

Animals Off Track

You have to accept that a neighbor's cat strays through your garden - but not its left behinds. Your neighbor may take action against animal dirt on balconies and terraces (LG Bonn judgment of October 6, 2009, re 8 S 142/09). Pet owners are supposed to keep their animals so that they do not enter other person's apartments. Loud cries of parrots must only be accepted for two hours a day. During the rest of the day, the bird must remain indoors (LG Hannover judgment May 8, 2009, re 16 S 44/08).


Upkeep in mind: Do onto others as they should do to you. That is guaranteed to work for normal persons.


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