Community-free area

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An unincorporated community is in administrative law a defined area, which no political community belongs. Most of these areas are uninhabited (forest areas, water areas, military training areas, etc.). In North America, on the other hand, the term unincorporated area usually refers to inhabited areas.


In Germany, there are both unincorporated areas that were formed by state sovereignty, as well as those that never belonged to the territory of a commune and are referred to as "originally unincorporated areas".

Areas free of municipalities are mostly either owned by the state in which they are located, owned by the Federal Republic of Germany or the Federal Real Estate Agency . The administrative sovereignty usually lies with the district office or the district administration of the relevant district , and the competent registry office is in a neighboring municipality. Exceptions are two inhabited, community-free areas with their own administrations in Lower Saxony and the two community-free areas of Schleswig-Holstein , for which the offices to which the areas belong are responsible.

In view of the local self-government guaranteed by the Basic Law and the principle of democracy, constitutional concerns have been raised in the legal literature against the continued existence of - at least inhabited - non-community areas. At least a representation of the residents with substantial participation rights is required. In Lower Saxony, the only state in which officially non-parish areas are still inhabited, there are plans for resident representatives to be elected there, but with only a few of their own decision-making powers.


In Germany there are 207 inland areas free of parishes, which are spread over five countries:

country As of March 1, 2020
number inhabited Pop.
Bavaria 174 - -
Lower Saxony 25th 2 2870
Hesse 4th - b - b
Schleswig-Holstein 2 - -
Baden-Württemberg 2 - c -
Rhineland-Palatinate d - -
Saarland d - -
Germany 207 2 2870
bThe Gutsbezirk Reinhardswald is uninhabited, according to Statistical Yearbook of the State of Hesse, but two residents reported
cThe Münsingen manor district was reduced to the inhabited parts of the area (160 inhabitants) on January 1, 2011 and has been uninhabited since then

The German areas beyond the beach line are regularly originally community-free areas. This applies to the coastal states of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein on the North and Baltic Seas with their adjoining estuaries. However, individual bodies of water have been incommunalized, at least in Schleswig-Holstein. Land areas that have arisen through backfill or other land reclamation measures do not automatically become the territory of the neighboring municipalities, but must first be assigned to them by law or in an administrative procedure.

In 2000, the number of community-free areas in Germany was 295, with a total area of ​​4,890.33 km². Unincorporated areas are repeatedly dissolved and their area is incorporated into neighboring communities, especially in Bavaria, the state with the most unincorporated areas (see also list of unincorporated areas in Bavaria ). There are also reductions in existing unincorporated areas.

Unregulated areas by size (area)

The largest community-free areas in Germany (including all inhabited areas but excluding lakes) with an area of ​​more than 50 km² are listed below:

Community-free area district country Area in km²
on December 31, 2013
on Dec. 31, 2018
031539504504 Harz (district of Goslar) District of Goslar Lower Saxony 371.75 -
031569501501 Harz (District of Göttingen) District of Göttingen Lower Saxony 267.35 -
066339200200 Reinhardswald estate district District of Kassel Hesse 182.58 0 or 2 **
033589501501 Osterheide Heidekreis district Lower Saxony 177.99 2105
031559501501 Solling Northeim district Lower Saxony 177.35 -
033519501501 Lohheide District of Celle Lower Saxony 91.32 765
064359200200 Manor district of Spessart Main-Kinzig district Hesse 89.30 -
091809451451 Ettal Forest Garmisch-Partenkirchen district Bavaria 83.46 -
084159971971 Münsingen manor district District of Reutlingen Baden-Württemberg 64.63 - *
010539105105 Sachsenwald District of the Duchy of Lauenburg Schleswig-Holstein 58.49 -
094729468468 Veldenstein Forest Bayreuth district Bavaria 55.60 -
033549502502 Goehrde Lüchow-Dannenberg district Lower Saxony 51.81 -
033549501501 Gartow Lüchow-Dannenberg district Lower Saxony 50.92 -
066369200200 Kaufunger Wald estate Werra-Meißner district Hesse 50.32 -
*no more residents since January 1, 2011 due to downsizing, see below .
**according to the Statistical Yearbook Hesse uninhabited, but actually two residents reported; see Reinhardswald estate .

In Bavaria there are a few more contiguous, unincorporated areas with more than 50 km²; However, these are made up of several contiguous, community-free areas, each of which is less than 50 km² in size.

Community-free lakes

The lakes that belong to any community and therefore unincorporated areas are, with the exception of Lake Constance (see below), all in Bavaria . In the first list of the Bavarian community-free areas from 1956 (ordinance on the division of the Free State of Bavaria into administrative districts, independent cities and districts from November 9, 1956, annex), these are still referred to as water districts. In the announcement of the Bavarian State Ministry of the Interior of September 16, 1966 No. IB 3 - 3000/10 - 9 on the existence and names of the community-free areas. Bavarian State Gazette No. 39 of September 30, 1966 , the terms water district , lake district and forest district are no longer used.

Community-free lake district Area in km²
091899451451 Chiemsee District of Traunstein 77.86
091889451451 starnberger Lake Starnberg district 57.16
091819451451 Ammersee Landsberg am Lech district 47.42
091899452452 Waginger See District of Traunstein 8.98

The community-free area Waginger See consists of the lakes Waginger See and Tachinger See .

The islands of the first three lakes ( Herrenchiemsee , Frauenchiemsee , Krautinsel , Roseninsel and most of the Schwedeninsel ) do not belong to the community-free areas of the lakes. Otherwise, the boundaries of the lakes as community-free areas and areas of water largely coincide. Small deviations, such as that a municipality area protrudes slightly into the water surface or the municipality-free area contains narrow shoreline strips such as the west bank of the Schwedeninsel in the Ammersee, can arise for surveying reasons, as well as the fact that the shorelines change over the decades, for example in Area of ​​the estuary delta of the Tiroler Ache in the Chiemsee.

The Bodensee extent occupies a special position, as for much of the Upper Lake , the national affiliation is resolved not even. However, since even the parts of Lake Constance, which undisputedly belong to Germany, have never been added to a municipality or district area, Lake Constance, insofar as it belongs to Germany, is originally an area free of municipalities.

Inhabited unincorporated areas

Only two of the unincorporated areas are officially inhabited:

Community-free area district country Population
on December 31, 2018
033589501501 Osterheide Heidekreis Lower Saxony 2105
033519501501 Lohheide Celle Lower Saxony 765

These two form the Bergen military training area .

Formerly inhabited non-parish areas are the East Frisian island of Memmert , which still had a population of 2 on December 31, 2002, but has been uninhabited since 2004, and the Münsingen manor district , which was reduced to include the inhabited areas on January 1, 2011.

The Gutsbezirk Reinhardswald is uninhabited, according to statistical yearbook, nevertheless actually two residents who are registered there. The resulting curiosities were already the subject of small inquiries to the Hessian state parliament. Why the area is still listed as uninhabited is unknown.

The area of ​​responsibility of the inhabited non-parish areas is basically that of a parish. However, there is no local council , only a local council. As “head” they only have an area or district head.

At the time of the censuses of September 13, 1950 and June 6, 1961, Bavaria also had a larger number of inhabited unincorporated areas (in 1950 at least 13 inhabited unincorporated areas with 665 and 1961 at least 10 with 261 inhabitants).


In Baden-Württemberg there are two unincorporated areas, Guts Bezirk Münsingen and Rheinau .



In Hesse , according to Section 153 (1) (c) of the Hessian Municipality Code, the ordinance on non- parish land and estate districts of November 15, 1938 continues to apply . It differentiates between parish-free land and manor districts . The Michelbuch district is a parish-free property, the estate districts Kaufunger Wald , Reinhardswald and Spessart are forest estate districts within the meaning of Section 4 (2) of the ordinance. In the forest estate districts, the responsible state forest officer is the estate manager.

Lower Saxony

The Lower Saxony “Ordinance on the Administration of Unincorporated Areas” differentiates between (inhabited) “Unincorporated Districts” ( Osterheide and Lohheide ) and “Other Unincorporated Areas” (23, for example Lütje Hörn ).

Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland

The joint German-Luxembourg sovereign territory does not belong to a municipality or a district, either in the Rhineland-Palatinate or in the Saarland.


There are no community-free areas in Austria . The entire national territory is divided into municipalities in accordance with the requirements contained in Article 116, Paragraph 1 of the Federal Constitutional Law , whereby all bodies of water, mountains and other uninhabited areas are always part of a municipality. Accordingly, the Austrian municipalities often have a considerable surface area, especially in the inner-Alpine region, whereby the municipal areas in these cases consist only of uninhabited high mountain landscapes over long distances. The Tyrolean community of Sölden, for example, is 467 km² larger than the federal capital Vienna , but has only 4000 inhabitants.


In Switzerland , the term “community-free area” is not in use, but here, too, there are areas outside the municipal structure, as statistical areas outside the political communities . They are under the direct sovereignty of the state, i.e. the respective canton .

The uninhabited areas are:

  • 22 lakes, several divided between several Canton, including only partially associated with Switzerland lakes Geneva , Constance (see FIG. There to the different legal opinions) and Lago Maggiore and
  • the State Forest Galm (a state domain of the canton of Friborg).

The inhabited community-free areas include the monasteries Grimmenstein and Wonnenstein (within the monastery walls, exclaves of the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden in the canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden).

The Fahr Monastery , an exclave of the canton of Aargau in the canton of Zurich, did not belong to any municipality until December 31, 2007. Since January 1, 2008, the area of ​​the exclave has been part of the Würenlos community , which it had previously looked after administratively.

The so-called municipalities and the Galm state forest are designated as community-free special areas by the Federal Statistical Office .


The areas of Spitzbergen (norw. Svalbard), Jan Mayen and Bouvetinsel do not belong to municipalities and not to provinces ( Fylke ). These areas are entirely state administered.

Unincorporated areas

Unincorporated area is an administrative term used in Anglo-Saxon countries. It denotes any type of area in which there is no self-government at the local level. Such an area is administered directly by the next higher administrative level.

United States

There are a large number of unincorporated areas in the USA . In some states these are subordinate to the respective counties , in others to the townships there . Very often there are settlements with their own name and social identity in these areas, so-called unincorporated communities . These settlements do not have the status of an autonomous community (such as a City , Town or Villages ) yet they are part of such communities. Many are also listed as Census-designated places by the United States Census Bureau . The most populous unincorporated area is Paradise (Nevada) , in which the Las Vegas Strip is located, with over 200,000 inhabitants. Most of the Unincorporated Areas , however, are small settlements in rural areas, which are accepted as postal addresses with their names, but whose population figures are not statistically recorded separately.

Insolvent municipalities can sink to the Unincorporated Area . In conurbations in particular, there is a risk of annexation by a neighboring municipality. On the other hand, settlements can become independent communes through the legal act of an Incorporation , such as La Pine , Oregon, which was only founded in 2006 .


Not every unincorporated area corresponds to a community-free area according to the German definition; in Canada , any settlement that does not form an independent municipality, but only a part of the municipality, is referred to as a Unincorporated Settlement . According to the German definition, most of these settlements would be districts, often even incorporations, literally translated as Incorporated Settlements .



  • Steffen Gronemeyer: The community-free areas (=  Göttingen jurisprudential studies . Volume 81 ). Otto Schwartz, Göttingen 1970, ISBN 3-509-00530-9 .
  • Gerhard Walther: Community-free areas and their history. In: 250 Years of the Bavarian State Forest Administration . (= Communications from the Bavarian State Forest Administration. No. 51. Vol. II, ISSN  1616-511X ) 2002, pp. 623–632.

Individual evidence

  1. Steffen Gronemeyer: The community-free areas (=  Göttinger jurisprudential studies . Volume 81 ). Otto Schwartz, Göttingen 1970, ISBN 3-509-00530-9 , p. 69 .
  2. Steffen Gronemeyer: The community-free areas (=  Göttinger jurisprudential studies . Volume 81 ). Otto Schwartz, Göttingen 1970, ISBN 3-509-00530-9 , p. 188-197 .
  3. Sections 4–16a of the Ordinance on the Administration of Unincorporated Areas of July 15, 1958, last amended on September 9, 2008
  4. Steffen Gronemeyer: The community-free areas (=  Göttinger jurisprudential studies . Volume 81 ). Otto Schwartz, Göttingen 1970, ISBN 3-509-00530-9 , p. 82-84 .
  5. Steffen Gronemeyer: The community-free areas (=  Göttinger jurisprudential studies . Volume 81 ). Otto Schwartz, Göttingen 1970, ISBN 3-509-00530-9 , p. 85-86 .
  6. All politically independent municipalities with selected characteristics on December 31, 2013. Federal Statistical Office , accessed on August 28, 2015 .
  7. Bavarian Law and Ordinance Gazette: Ordinance on the division of the Free State of Bavaria into administrative districts of independent cities and districts of November 9, 1956, published November 22, 1956, 1956 edition No. 22, pages 193–220
  8. Steffen Gronemeyer: The community-free areas (=  Göttinger jurisprudential studies . Volume 81 ). Otto Schwartz, Göttingen 1970, ISBN 3-509-00530-9 , p. 77-79 .
  9. All politically independent municipalities with selected characteristics on December 31, 2013. Federal Statistical Office , accessed on August 28, 2015 .
  10. Small request from the Abg. Schäfer-Gümbel (SPD) from 07.09.2012 regarding the delivery of mail in the Reinhardswald forest district of the Hessian state parliament, printed matter 18/6147 (pdf)
  11. ^ Denazified version of the ordinance on parish-free land and manor districts of November 15, 1938
  12. Administrative areas 1: 25,000. Federal Agency for Cartography and Geodesy , p. 6 , accessed on August 28, 2015 .