The neighbour’s oil tank is positioned directly next to our boundary and surrounded by wooden fencing and under the eaves of our outhouse which is adjoined to the house. What are my rights?

We live in a semi-detached house and we are responsible for maintaining the boundary where the neighbour’s oil tank is positioned. The oil tank is on their side of the boundary but only by about 30 cms. I have spoken to the neighbour who is looking into options but is reluctant to move the tank due to the cost. The tank is a single skinned plastic tank holding 2,500 litres of oil and, I am informed, was installed before April 2002 when the Oil Regs came into force. We would like to know if we can enforce the repositioning of the tank, the fire proofing of the eaves of the outhouse and the removal of all the wooden fencing surrounding the tank (on 3 sides)? If so are we responsible for any of the cost for doing this work? Is there a minimum time frame for carrying out the work? And who do we speak to for help in enforcing this or taking further advice?

  • Michael Holmes

    Oil storage tank installations need to comply with the Building Regulations (Building Standards in Scotland). There are strict rules on the safe siting of an oil tank to protect against the risk of fire (minimal) and pollution. You can view them in detail here

    If the tank is new it should not have been installed where it, is as it does not comply with the Building Regulations. Most installations are undertaken by OFTEC fitters and they can approve their own work for Building Regulations purposes under the competent persons scheme. If they used an OFTEC registered fitter, they should not have signed off the installation and your neighbour should look into this. The building regulations are enforced by law and illegal work can be required to be regularised.

    If you have built your fence or outhouse since the oil tank was fitted, your work would not comply with the Building Regulations, even if the work did not require notification for Building Regulations purposes – the work would still have to comply and would have to be regularised.

    If the tank has been there a long time already, I would not take any action – any risk is very minimal. If the installation is fairly new, then I would approach your neighbours with the correct information and draw their attention to the fact that the work they have paid for does not comply with the law. Alternatively, contact your local authority Building Control Department.

    Before doing anything though, read the Regulations and check whether the installation complies.

    Here’s an extract of the Regulations.

    Tanks should be sited:
    1.8m away from non-fire rated eaves of a building;
    1.8m away from a non-fire building or structure (e.g. garden sheds);
    1.8m away from openings (such as doors or windows) in a fire rated building or structure (e.g. brick built house/garage);
    1.8m away from oil fired appliance flue terminals;
    760mm away from a non-fire rated boundary such as a wooden boundary fence;
    600mm away from screening (e.g. trellis and foliage) that does not form part of the

    If it is impossible to comply with these requirements, then a fire protection barrier
    with at least 30 minutes fire rating should be provided. A minimum separation distance of 100mm is required between the tank and fire rated barrier unless a larger distance is specified by the tank manufacturer.

  • Fred Phillips

    Regulations regarding proximity of neighbour’s oil tank
    By Homebuilding & Renovating on 1 Feb 2013.

    I read the above article with interest as my neighbour’s have built a garden shed on their boundary directly behind our oil tank. The gap between the two is approximately 40cm. The shed is on raised ground approximately 1.0m high. As the tank owner do I have to fire protect my tank from his shed?

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