– June 22, 2022

I am planning to build a raised bed in my garden: Do I have to observe the border distances to the neighbor?

I am planning to build raised beds in my garden. How large must the distance to the neighbor’s property be for a raised bed? What special regulations apply? Is the distance regulation different from that for shrubs and trees?

First of all, it is necessary to distinguish whether the raised bed is mobile or immobile. A mobile model is considered to be a movable structure within the meaning of Art. 677 of the Swiss Civil Code. In principle, all constructional devices erected above or below ground on a plot of land, such as a rabbit hutch, a bee house or a tool shed, are regarded as movable structures. The only condition is that they are only temporarily and fundamentally not permanently connected to the property. In such a case, no special distance regulations need to be observed, as the raised bed can be moved. However, the Federal Supreme Court has already declared that structures which are used for a not insignificant period of time and are stationary require a permit.

If the raised bed is immobile and remains in the same place for a longer period of time, the provisions of the Introductory Act to the Swiss Civil Code (EG ZGB) and the Cantonal Planning and Building Act (PBG) apply. In the canton of Lucerne, § 86 EG ZGB regulates the general border distances of plants. Thus, a distance of 0.5 m applies to dwarf trees, shrubs, green hedges and vines; if they grow higher than 1 m, the distance must be at least half their height up to 4 m, and they must be cut back accordingly.

Area-wide raised beds

Area-wide raised beds and plant troughs sometimes create the impression of a holistic facade. For observers – especially neighbors – the question of the boundary distance in accordance with the building and zoning regulations then readily arises. Thus, a building or structure that in principle does not require a permit can become subject to a permit if it “looks like a facade”. In such a case, which is measured according to objective criteria, the ordinary boundary distance must be observed. In this case, the design is of major importance. For example, the pergola, which is popular in many gardens, is considered to be an installation (not requiring a building permit) if it has no roof or side walls as a beam construction. The typical plant growth is not considered a roof or wall in the sense of building law or as weather protection. In this design, a pergola is therefore not subject to the boundary distance regulations for buildings. The term “building” is generally defined rather broadly. In a nutshell, it refers to artificially created and permanent structures that have a fixed relationship to the ground and are capable of influencing the land use regulations, the environment, etc. It is recommended in all cases to use the term “building” for the purpose of defining the boundary distance.

In any case, it is recommended to inform affected neighbors in advance about significant changes and perhaps even to reach an agreement so that neighborly peace can be maintained.

An article by Reto von Glutz, lic. iur., attorney at law, published as a guide by Luzerner Zeitung.