Unless you live on hundreds of acres of land, you have probably had to deal with neighbors in some capacity. In most cases, neighbors are not family members or friends, yet instead tend to come from multiple backgrounds. Often these differences in lifestyle, socioeconomic level, misunderstandings, and other factors may lead to neighbor disputes and make for an unpleasant neighborhood experience. This section provides information about how to handle neighbor disputes, including practical advice on neighbor relations; how to avoid becoming an annoyance to your neighbors; what to do if you believe your neighbor is becoming a nuisance; and relevant legal implications.
Is Your Neighbor a Nuisance?
Everyone has a slightly different idea of what it means to be a "nuisance," whether it's a barking dog or frequent all-night parties. When you file a nuisance lawsuit against your neighbor, you essentially make the claim that your neighbor's actions are interfering with the enjoyment of your property. Nuisance claims are considered either private or public.
A private nuisance claim is one that affects just one or a handful of neighbors, such as a loud rooster that crows at dawn every day. A public nuisance is typically much more far-reaching and involves the public in general. For instance, a nearby hog farm that fails to properly treat its waste, thus permeating the entire community with extremely unpleasant odors, would be considered a public nuisance. A nuisance typically involves non-physical elements, such as odors or sounds.
In order to get relief from a nuisance claim, the offending action must be both substantial and continuous. This means the occasional barking dog or annual all-night party would not be considered an actionable nuisance by most courts. But as a practical matter, it's usually best to work it out directly with your neighbor than to file a claim (which should be your last resort).
Does Your Neighbor Have the Right to Farm?
Depending on where you live, you may be surprised to learn that it's completely permissible for your neighbors to keep small livestock and replace the grass with crops. Some of these animals, particularly roosters, tend to be quite loud at odd hours of the day and may be considered a nuisance. Actual farms have "the right to farm," which means nuisance laws typically don't apply as long as the farm is following all laws and regulations.
But if your neighbor's small flock of hens is guarded by a rooster that wakes you up every morning at 4:30, you may have a valid nuisance claim. Again, talking to your neighbor directly is usually the best course of action; but if a loud rooster is causing a nuisance, you may have some leverage.
Neighbors and Water Damage
While a nuisance may interfere with your peaceful abode, water damage caused by a neighbor's actions typically requires expensive clean-up work. But it's important to know exactly what your neighbor's responsibilities are before pursuing a claim. For instance, neighbors typically are not responsible (i.e., liable) for water damage the results from naturally occurring rain runoff. Water will always flow from higher to lower ground, so it's your responsibility to protect your property from such predictable forms of water intrusion.
But if the excess water is the result of an altered landscape, plumbing issues, or some other condition for which the neighbor should have anticipated or corrected, then they most likely would be held liable for any damage. But in reality, these claims are often quite complicated and involve questions of physics, alternations, and the "reasonableness" standard.
Disputes with neighbors are never pleasant, but knowing your rights and responsibilities will make for a better neighborly experience. Click on a link below to learn more.