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Property in France

Herd of Cows a Neighbour Nuisance?

Friday 10 January 2020

Living in the countryside in France brings many benefits, but it does also mean that you may be obliged to tolerate some of the more unpleasant characteristics of farming activity.

Nevertheless, despite their formidable political influence, farmers do not have carte blanche to act in an unrestrained manner. Most also have the good sense and manners to appreciate that they need to act with proper consideration to their neighbours.

Where they do not act respectfully there are steps that can be taken, such as occurred recently with a couple living in the village of Crançot in Burgundy, who bought a legal action against their neighbouring farmer over nuisance caused by the herd of cows he owned.

The farmer grazed his livestock of about twenty cows on land he owned which bordered the couple's house.

Complaining about inconveniences caused by the farmer during the daily movements of his animals between this pasture and his farm a few hundred meters away, the couple sought a court order to force him to relocate the opening to his pasture away from their house.

In a hearing in the local tribunal the couple won their case, not on the grounds of neighbour nuisance, but on the basis that he had failed to comply with a municipal order requiring that the access point into the pasture be moved.

The court ordered the opening to the pasture be relocated 70 metres from the property, in accordance with a local municipal decree.

The farmer appealed the decision claiming that the couple did not provide evidence of an abnormal neighbour disturbance because of the rural location of their property.

He also claimed that he had acted in good faith, having modified his tractor to clean the track several times a week, although he admitted that he had been unable to comply with the municipal order due to 'the inherent behaviour of cattle'.

In court the couple recalled that every day for 8 months of the year they had to put up with the excrement, odour and mud from the cows passing in front of their house.

In support of their case the couple supplied witness statements as well as photographic evidence taken over 8 years.

The court upheld the complaint by the couple, ruling that, contrary to the lower court, a neighbour nuisance had been caused, beyond the normal inconveniences of living in the countryside

The court ordered the farmer to carry out work to close off the access of his herd through the current entrance to his pasture, and to create an opening at least 70 metres after his neighbours house, under a penalty payment of €60 per day for non-compliance. The couple were also awarded €6,000 in damages, with costs to the farmer.

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