Here are your legal rights and responsibilities if you're having a bonfire

With November 5 just three days away, many people will be celebrating with bonfires and fireworks this weekend.

Friday, 1st November 2019, 9:33 pm
Updated Saturday, 2nd November 2019, 11:14 am
If you're organising a bonfire, or going to one, it's important to know the law

But if you decide to hold your own bonfire, rather than attend an organised display, what are yoiur legal rights – and responsibilities?

Hannah Parsons, from DAS Law, has drawn up some guidelines.

What are the legal ramifications if I am injured at a friend’s or family party?

An occupier of land owes a duty to any visitor to take reasonable care to ensure the visitor is safe on the premises. Therefore, if someone is hosting a firework party, they should ensure they are purchasing the fireworks from a licensed outlet, they read the instructions carefully before use, and ensure they light the fireworks from a safe place.

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“If you are injured, you may be able to hold the organiser of the event liable.

Is it true there are restrictions on when you can have a bonfire?

There are no restrictions on when you can have a bonfire as there are actually no laws governing having one. There are, however, laws relating to any nuisance that your bonfire may cause.

Can you just burn anything?

No. Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, it is an offence to burn any substance that will release harmful fumes causing pollution to the environment or harm to human health (these could include plastic, rubber or painted items).

You need to ensure that the fire is contained and does not escape causing damage or injury to people. It is also an offence if anyone on a public road is “injured, interrupted or endangered” by fire or smoke from your bonfire.

Can you prevent your neighbour from having a bonfire?

It is unlikely that you would be able to prevent your neighbour from having a bonfire if they are doing so occasionally and are not burning hazardous material.

Obviously, if the neighbour’s fire is posing a clear risk to the safety of your property this could be reported to the fire service.

What recourse do I have if my neighbour is causing a nuisance?

If your neighbour’s bonfire is affecting you, the first step would be to raise it with the neighbour to make them aware of the impact the bonfire has on you.

If this fails then you may be able to get a court order restricting the neighbour’s ability to have a bonfire. But the occasional bonfire is unlikely to amount to a legal nuisance and legal advice should be sought when considering legal action against your neighbour.

If you neighbour is burning hazardous material you can report the neighbour to the environmental health team within your local authority.

If a neighbour’s bonfire burns my fence or property, whose insurance should be claimed on?

If the fence was damaged because your neighbour failed to contain the fire and take appropriate steps to prevent the fire from escaping or getting out of control then your neighbour could be liable for the damage caused to the fence.

If it is your neighbour’s fault then they should claim on their insurance but you cannot insist they do so. However, when faced with a potential claim for damages the neighbour may choose to get their insurance company involved instead of dealing with it themselves.