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My neighbour has started keeping bees — is there any way I can object to this?

G.H., Paddock Wood, Kent.

My neighbour has started keeping bees – can I stop him? DEAN DUNHAM replies

The sting: A homeowner is concerned about his neighbour’s new hobby – beekeeping. But is there anything he can do?

Dean Dunham replies: The starting point is that your neighbour is entitled to keep bees and if they cause you no harm or significant issues you will not be able to object or stop your neighbour just because you do not like the idea.

However, if you believe the bees are causing a nuisance or a health risk to you and your family, the position potentially changes. 

A law called the Environmental Protection Act 1990 covers a range of environmental issues which may be interpreted as being a statutory nuisance, including noise, odour, and pollution.

Section 79(f) states that a statutory nuisance includes, ‘any animal kept in such a place or manner as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance’.

Actual nuisance does not have to be shown — it is enough if the activity complained of interferes with your personal comfort. 

Also local authorities sometimes have their own bylaws or regulations governing beekeeping so it’s worth seeing if this is the case where you live and finding out exactly what such regulations say.

Armed with what the law and any local regulations say, you should, in the first instance, speak to your neighbour and voice your concerns in a non-confrontational and friendly manner.

If this does not resolve the issue your next step will be to contact your local council’s environmental health department and make a complaint.

Bear in mind that for your complaint to be taken seriously, you will need to show that a statutory nuisance exists or that local bylaws or regulations (if they exist) are being breached.

Before making contact with the local council you should therefore gather as much evidence as possible in relation to the issue, such as photos or videos of the bees causing a nuisance or a health risk to you or your family.

If the local council accepts that a statutory nuisance exists, it will have power under Section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act to take various steps, including the issue of a notice requiring the abatement of the nuisance or prohibiting or restricting its occurrence or recurrence. It could also severely restrict, or even close down, the beekeeper’s activities.

Tree thieves nabbed my maple – can I make a claim? 

I had a very expensive Japanese maple tree in a pot stolen from outside my front door — can I claim on my insurance?

B.N., Lyndhurst.

Dean Dunham replies: Most home contents insurance policies will cover the likes of plants being stolen from outside your property. 

However, policies differ so you will need to look at your particular contents insurance policy wording to see what it says about this.

All policies have various exclusions (i.e. a list of items and circumstances that you cannot claim for) so you will need to make sure pot plants are not included in such a list and make sure your ‘outside’ cover is not limited to your back garden.

By way of example, I have seen a policy recently that specifically excluded cover for theft of plants planted in the ground, as opposed to in a pot. 

Insurers also tend to exclude items that should have been kept inside, so it is important that you provide evidence that this is an ‘outdoor’ plant.

If you are covered, you will need to ascertain if there is a limit on how much you can claim. 

Outdoor items usually have lower cover limits due to the higher risk of theft or damage and insurance providers will therefore typically only cover these up to a specified amount, often around £250.

When you have an expensive item it is always worth notifying your insurance provider before cover starts and asking for written confirmation that it will be covered in the event of damage or theft.

With outside items, it is also advisable to ask for confirmation that these will be covered and you should state precisely where they will be located outside.

If you later have cause to make a claim, this written confirmation of your cover will pay dividends and should ensure a smooth claim process.

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