Views, Noise, and Other Potential Neighbor Disputes
When your neighbor blocks your picture-perfect view of the lake, creates excessive noise when you're trying to sleep, or otherwise causes major nuisances, potential neighbor disputes can arise in short order. In many cases, the neighbor may not realize that their new deck is blocking your view or that their late-night tinkering in the garage is causing such a commotion. Sometimes just talking to them can solve the problem -- but not always. Thankfully there are laws and processes designed to remedy disputes between neighbors, which are discussed below.
Disputes sometimes arise between neighbors about changing views. If a tree entirely on a neighbor's property grows so large that it blocks a property owner's view or even natural sunshine, the best tactic is to discuss the matter with the neighbor. The homeowner probably has no legal right to get the neighbor to alter the tree unless a local ordinance or Homeowners' Association rule exists regarding such an issue. In some instances, however, state laws may provide that, to the extent tree branches reach the inside of an affected-neighbor's property, they may be trimmed accordingly.
Sometimes structural additions or changes ruin views and may potentially damage property values. Local zoning and building departments typically require permits and set rules for any building or structural changes. If the neighbor meets the legal requirements, generally nothing can be done to prevent them from making structural additions or alterations. Homeowners' Associations and CC&Rs, however, may be of some assistance, particularly if the change is unusually hideous and more cosmetic than structural.
Natural water runoff from a neighbor's property due to rain or snow is not actionable, but any grading or building which alters the natural runoff may cause the neighbor to be liable for damages. If a neighbor's home improvement project causes a water line to burst, creating flood or water damage, the neighbor will likely be responsible. Fortunately, most homeowner's insurance policies cover this type of negligence, heading off any potential neighbor disputes.
Parking is governed by local laws and ordinances, and is typically enforced by the local municipality. If a car is parked in a no-parking zone, fire lane, or in an otherwise unlawful manner, a citizen can simply call the local parking enforcement authorities and have the vehicle ticketed and/or towed. A car parked on private property without permission may be towed away by order of the property owner; however, unless the property owner has some arrangement with the towing company, a charge may be assessed at the time of the tow.
Broken cars or unsightly recreational vehicles parked on any property may violate a provision of the zoning code, or perhaps Homeowner's Association rules. If not, and if the vehicle is parked either on a neighbor's property or a public street, not much can be done to remedy the matter other than convincing the neighbor that such items detract from the neighborhood. Ideally, there should be a written record of any agreement for sharing maintenance and/or towing expenses for a shared driveway.
Excessive noise, a common potential neighbor dispute, may arise to a criminal misdemeanor violation. Police can be called to quiet a noisy event; however, it is difficult to measure damages for any type of civil suit for continued noise violations. It may be possible to appear at the trial for a noise violation and, once the neighbor is found guilty of the violation, ask the judge to order "no excessive noise" as a condition of the violator's probation.
Homeowner's Associations, health codes, local ordinances, and nuisance laws may prohibit unmaintained yards. Homeowner's Associations sometimes have provisions in which, after adequate notice, the association may hire a landscaper to maintain the property and assess costs to the homeowner.
Although thousands of people work out of their homes, home-based businesses can cause traffic congestion, noise, unwelcome smells, unsightly signage, and general neighborhood upheaval. Local ordinances regulate home businesses and may require specific business licenses. Zoning ordinances or association rules may prevent home based businesses in residential areas altogether.
Get a Free Legal Evaluation of Your Neighbor Disputes
Whether the tension is caused by blocked views, noise, or other potential neighbor disputes, the best policy is to work out an amicable agreement directly with your neighbor(s). But that isn't always possible and sometimes you need to take legal action. Not sure where to begin? Start with a legal evaluation of your neighbor dispute issue with an experienced real estate attorney today.
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