Privacy protection zone
The basic rule of the Swedish Right of Public Access is that we are free to roam almost anywhere in nature, including on other people’s land, as long as we do not disturb or destroy. But there are a few exceptions. We may not walk on growing crops and we must respect the privacy protection zone.
The privacy protection zone is the area immediately surrounding a residence or a holiday home, where residents have the right to a private area and to be left undisturbed. Within the privacy protection zone, the property owner or tenant has full authority over the land and no one is allowed to access it without their permission. The Right of Public Access does not apply within the privacy protection zone.
If you are cycling or riding in the countryside, there are a few more restrictions to the Right of Public Access.
No general measure
It is very difficult to specify a general measure of how big a privacy protection zone around a residence or a holiday home is, as it varies in each individual case. Sometimes there are clear, obvious boundaries to the privacy protection zone, such as a fence, a hedge, a road or a footpath or cycle path. In a residential area, for example, the privacy protection zone may in some cases be very small, just a few metres from a house, if there is such a clear boundary close to the house.
In other cases, there are natural boundaries such as a ditch or the edge of a forest, a field or a road at a reasonable distance from the house. If there is dense vegetation or the land is hilly around the house, there is less risk of disturbance, in which case the boundary of the privacy protection zone may be closer to the residential building. If the house is in an open, flat landscape, the privacy protection zone may need to be bigger.
Fence around the privacy protection zone
It is permitted to erect a fence around the privacy protection zone around your residence or holiday home. But you must not fence off any part of the property that is situated outside the privacy protection zone - if the purpose is solely to exclude other people. If you do, you are obliged to install a gate or stile. There is usually no privacy protection zone around commercial buildings such as barns or stores, as no one lives there.
The Right of Public Access applies outside the privacy protection zone
Anyone is free to access and move around the area outside the privacy protection zone, but you should still show consideration for residents. This means, for example, that you may walk, cycle, canoe, ride or ski close to the boundary of the privacy protection zone, as long as you do so considerately and do not stay there for too long. But if you do want to stop for a while, maybe to have a snack or to pick wild berries or mushrooms, or if you plan to set up camp or moor your boat overnight, you should show consideration and keep a reasonable distance from the property. There are no definitive distances to observe, but the more disruptive an activity is to residents, the further away you should keep.
There may be local conditions that can affect the size of the privacy protection zone. For example, in older fishing villages on the west coast, the houses are often very close to one another and residents there are quite used to people moving around just outside their houses. Other places may tend to have bigger plots of land for holiday homes, where people might not be used to having others moving around close to their houses.
In rural areas, older roads often went from farm to farm, usually straight through the farms. This was no problem in the past, as those who were making their way along the roads were close neighbours or local villagers. Now, with more and more people out enjoying the countryside, conflicts can sometimes arise about how a road can be used.
As mentioned above, it is not possible to specify an exact distance defining the privacy protection zone, but the more disruptive the activity is that you are engaged in, the greater the distance needs to be from inhabited buildings. You should try to put yourself in the occupant’s situation and imagine what consideration you yourself would like other people to show to you.