Welcome to FindLaw's Neighbors section. Neighborhoods form dynamic communities with unique personalities, since a group of unrelated people must live close together. Sometimes the members in the group are friendly and don’t fight over boundaries or excessive noise, but just as often neighbors enter into legal disputes with each other. Here you will find information on property rights and boundary issues, plus tips on handling common types of neighbor disputes outside the courtroom.
A large portion of disputes and legal issues among neighbors involve property boundaries. While local governments typically keep detailed records of property boundaries, they are generally written for professional surveyors and thus difficult for average homeowners to decipher. But aside from the official boundaries, neighbors can agree to different boundaries by making an official "lot line agreement."
If there is a dispute over property lines, a professional surveyor can can sort it out for you. But even in the absence of a dispute over boundaries, premises liability claims are based on actual boundaries. So if your neighbor's fence juts into your property in one section, you may want to have that adjusted through an easement in order to avoid problems later.
For the most part, fences built on a boundary line are the responsibility of both neighbors (including maintenance and replacement costs).
Neighbor Disputes Regarding Animals
There are a number of instances where domestic animals could cause problems for neighbors. For instance, a dog that has bitten a neighbor on more than one occasion may be required by the court to remain behind a fence or inside the house. Some states may require vicious animals to be euthanized. As far as excessive barking or other pet sounds are concerned, the best course of action is to speak with your neighbor. But if that is fruitless, you may want to check your local noise ordinance.
The keeping of livestock in a residential area is subject to local laws. For instance, many localities prohibit chickens, goats, and other small livestock; but most unincorporated areas are not subject to such laws. In any event, it's always a good idea to speak with your neighbors first before getting livestock, which could help you avoid disputes in the future.
If a neighbor is hoarding animals or otherwise violating animal protection laws, then you should contact your local animal control unit.
Loud or Problematic Neighbors
If your neighbor is unreasonably loud -- perhaps he plays loud music late at night -- then you may be able to bring a nuisance suit against him. Of course, the best first step is to talk to your neighbor; a soured relationship can create additional problems in the future.
The two main type nuisance suits are private and public actions. A private nuisance is one that specifically impacts your property, such as the example above. To prove such a claim, you would need to show that your neighbors actions substantially interfered with your enjoyment of your property. A public nuisance is one that impacts others in the community, such as a foul odor emitted by a nearby factory.
Click on a link below to learn more about the legal implications of neighbor relationships.