I can't think of another failed act of terrorism we celebrate with as much enthusiasm as we do on Bonfire night.
The annual tradition of setting fire to a bunch of stuff at the end of your garden while detonating small colourful bombs and eating hotdogs is largely a UK exclusive phenomenon and generally observed with mild bemusement from outside the commonwealth. However, it is an integral part of being a Brit and is here to stay.
For many, wrapping up and heading down to a local park or other communal area to watch an organised firework display is the preferred option and the perfect chance to enjoy the festivities with people you wouldn't invite to your home. For others, perhaps less thrilled by the prospect of paying to watch their council tax literally going up in smoke right before their eyes, a small gathering at their house - a bring a bomb party - is the way to go. Great fun.
But what if you don't own the property you are planning to set fire to? What are the rules?
Well, if you do rent and plan on hosting your own Bonfire party, there are certainly a few things that need considering:
1: Tenancy Agreement
I cannot stress this enough. Check your tenancy agreement.
This should be number one on your checklist. If your tenancy agreement says you can't have a bonfire (many tenancy agreements prohibit any kind of naked flame on the premises), then you can't have one. Simple. It’s a good idea to check the agreement and make sure. If yours doesn’t specifically mention bonfires and you’re not sure whether you could get in trouble for having one, a chat with your landlord will help to clear things up.
Unless you renting a lighthouse or live in the middle of nowhere, you are going to have neighbours.
Most tenancy agreements will have a section quite rightfully stating that you should consider your neighbours and not pose any kind of nuisance or annoyance to them. A lot of it is just common sense and decency so, a sensible idea, would be to inform your neighbour (especially if they are elderly or have pets) a few days before and let them know that you’re planning a party, no matter if it's just a few friends or everyone from Facebook.
Giving your neighbours advanced warning about any sort of party is a good idea (I know this from personal experience) and this way, they can be prepared for all the music, noise, smoke and bombs you are planning to enjoy. If necessary, they can make arrangements to be away from home that night if they prefer. However, if they’re unhappy with the idea of you setting your garden ablaze, a compromise should be settled by agreeing a reasonable time for you to stop.
If, like me, you are a child of the 70s/80s, it is fair to assume that you too have been mentally scarred by the barrage of public information films on TV that covered firework safety when we were little.
From the one with the little girl and the sparkler (still hear the piercing screams at night) to other ones with people losing eyes or just bursting into flames, it was a lot more hard hitting back then, but the basics have remained the same and, as you would expect, there are guides-a-plenty out there with regards to personal safety and fireworks that are definitely worth looking at.
But what about your property? It's worthwhile taking a proper look at your garden and being really honest with yourself as to whether it’s safe to set off fireworks or light fires in it.
If it's too small, has overhanging trees or a perhaps a badly positioned wooden shed, it's probably not worth the risk. If you have even the slightest doubt, don’t do it. Safety for you, your friends and neighbours should always be your priority and it's better to skip the fireworks and be safe in the knowledge that you won’t cause injury, damage or risk losing your deposit or your tenancy.
If your garden is suitable and your neighbours are either on board with your plans or out of town, then you're good to go.
Before setting fire to anything, ensure all your windows and doors and closed. Firstly, the smell of smoke can linger for days, but more importantly, fireworks can be unpredictable and should one hit the house, external damage to brickwork or windows will cost a lot less to fix than an internal fire or explosion.
Depending on the number (and type) of people you have invited, it's worthwhile considering a certain level of protection against muddy shoes, breakages and other party related damage as people will naturally shift from outside to in as the night progresses.
Hopefully, the morning after won't look like a scene from The Hangover or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and while the worst is unlikely to happen, getting insurance, or at least making sure that you are covered if anything too 'rock and roll' happens, provides a little peace of mind.
A simple search online will reveal a number of insurance providers that have specific Bonfire Night insurance packages for all sizes of events. Whether you are lighting the fireworks yourself or with a professional, there are a variety of policies available that could save you a lot in a worse-case scenario.
Small budget for damage
If you didn't want to go the whole hog of getting insurance, keeping aside a little cash from your party budget 'just in case' is a good idea. You can't predict when and where an accident that could impact your deposit will happen. Damage to the lawn or the fence from the bonfire could potentially cost you, as could any damage to the inside of your property. Your landlord will expect the property returned in the same way that it was originally rented.
Have fun and stay safe