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Neighbours have right to retrieve lost balls, cats under new Belgian law

London: The days of children saying “can I have my ball back, please?” after kicking it into a garden are numbered in Belgium.

A new property law comes into force on September 1 that will allow people to retrieve a ball or wandering pet from a neighbour’s garden without asking for permission. Under current rules, the neighbour can refuse access.

The laws allow people to venture onto a neighbour’s property to retrieve a lost ball, or cat.

The laws allow people to venture onto a neighbour’s property to retrieve a lost ball, or cat. Credit:Louise Kennerley

Vincent Sagaert, a law professor at Leuven University, helped draw up the new rules.

“From September 1, you have the right to collect your ball or pet, provided it ended up there by accident,” he told Flemish radio. “Just kicking the ball over the hedge to have a look around is not allowed. Of course, you must use your common sense.

“You have to ring the bell of the neighbour and ask first. But if they refuse or are not at home, you can still enter the garden to quickly get it back.”

He added: “But only to look for your ball or animal, not to take other things, because that is still just called theft.”

Defending the new laws, Sagaert said the private property rules were badly in need of reform with some dating from 1804 and written by Napoleon.

Eric Dierickx, a magistrate in a small claims court in Flemish Brabant, said the law would be monitored.

“People cannot just start walking into anyone’s garden, abuses will also be punished,” he said.

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