Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Property Rights: My Neighbor is a Nuisance

In the early days of this country, land was abundant, and neighbors were distant. As the population grew and urban areas increased, property disputes began to show up in courts. One of the first judge-made doctrines applied to property disputes in the United States was the law of nuisance. It came from England. This doctrine still finds its way into property disputes today. This doctrine comes up when a neighboring property owner acts as a nuisance. It often comes into nuisance claims with ordinances against noise and other disturbances.

Under nuisance law, annoyed people have been pursuing remedies against their neighbors' barking dogs, loud music, and loud noises for hundreds of years. Neighbors in properties such as condominiums and townhouses may have more considerations from homeowner's associations. Most lease agreements and state laws entitle you to quiet enjoyment of your property. If your neighbor is creating nuisances, local laws related to nuisances may give you legal recourse.

The Law of Nuisance

Lawsuits invoking the law of nuisance typically involve people suing their neighbors. They might also apply to a public official suing a property owner for the benefit of the general public. By bringing suit, the plaintiff usually seeks to control or limit the use of the land owned by the defendant. In filing the suit, the plaintiff tries to legally interfere with the nuisance-creating party's free use of the land. But that free use must lead to the types of nuisances considered violations of nuisance laws. Examples of these include loud noises at odd hours, barking dogs, or loud parties at night.

There are two basic types of nuisance suits. These are private and public nuisance actions. A private nuisance means a loss of the use or enjoyment of property without an actual physical invasion. An action for a physical invasion of property is a trespass action. A public nuisance has more far-reaching effects. It can affect the health, safety, welfare, or comfort of the public in general.

Interference with the property must be substantial to warrant injunctive relief in a private nuisance claim. At the same time, it must be continuous. Injunctive relief forces the defendant to lessen their negative effect on the plaintiff. These actions can limit the hours of the action or place an all-out ban on the adverse action. But in constructing its relief, most courts will try to balance the relative hardships to both parties. Especially where an ongoing business is the defendant in the action, the court will try to lessen the economic impact on the business.

How Courts Decide Cases

In deciding nuisance disputes, several factors influence courts. First, courts will look at the location of the alleged nuisance. They will look at any zoning restrictions that may apply to that area. For instance, a court may be less likely to restrict a livestock feedlot in a rural area than one at the edge of a city or suburb.

But no matter how rural, if the feedlot is in a residential zone, a court may allow injunctive or other relief. That an activity is in an area zoned for that type of operation doesn't mean it isn't a nuisance. For example, in an area zoned to allow a mixture of residential and commercial buildings, a court might still find that an all-night gas station creates a nuisance for the residential property owners in the area.

There are some other points to consider if you are thinking about bringing a nuisance action:

  1. A mere fear of future injury will not merit injunctive relief.
  2. Usually, purely aesthetic considerations, such as the look of a funeral home in a residential area, will not rise to the level of a nuisance.
  3. When a person purchases property knowing that a given operation is nearby, the moving-to-the-nuisance doctrine usually stops injunctive relief.

So, if a person moves into a house next to a baseball field, this doctrine may stop the person from getting relief from the bright lights and noise.

Is Your Neighbor a Nuisance? Get Legal Help with Your Property Rights

Being on either side of a nuisance lawsuit is not a pleasant experience. Cases like these arise when disputes between neighboring property owners go unresolved. If your neighbor makes it difficult for you to enjoy your property, contact an experienced real estate attorney. They can help you get to a resolution.

If calling law enforcement has stopped your neighbor from creating the nuisance, you may have to file a lawsuit. If you're struggling with a neighbor who is making a nuisance, it is always best to seek legal advice about real estate law from a qualified real estate attorney. They can assist with any legal issue, including those related to nuisances. They can help you file a nuisance complaint.

Was this helpful?

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps

Contact a qualified attorney to help you address difficulties with your neighbors.

Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Help Me Find a Do-It-Yourself Solution

Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options