Businesses And Neighbors
Businesses And Neighbors
Howard Gould (Neighbor Law Expert, Finestone & Richter) gives expert video advice on: What can I do about a noisy business near my home?; Can I assume no business activity is allowed in a residential neighborhood? and more...
What can I do about a noisy business near my home?
This will depend upon what the zoning laws are and precisely what the business is doing. We have zoning laws specifically to try to separate different uses that are not compatible; to have residential uses in some areas, business uses in other areas, industrial uses in even different areas. So you need to look at the zoning laws and make certain that your property and the neighbor's property are complying with those zoning laws, and that the uses are permitted. If they're not, that may be your best way to remedy the situation, to request that the use be terminated or at least limited in a way that complies with the zoning laws. However, if the neighbor's use does comply with the zoning laws, your rights may be much more limited. There may be some local ordinances that limit their hours of business, there may be some local ordinances that limit noise levels, decibel levels for sound and things like that, that will give you some remedies to assist you with this business. There may be parking restrictions or something else like that, that are either general parking restrictions, or restrictions imposed on that property when they obtained permission for their use, because some uses require special permissions from cities under what are called conditional use permits, and those may have parking requirements or restrictions, or restrictions on business hours.
Can I assume no business activity is allowed in a residential neighborhood?
In a residential neighborhood there are always people who work from their homes, that is, conduct business activities in their residentail neighborhood. These days we have what we call telecommuting, where some employees actually spend part or all of their working day or working week working from home. So it's not unusual to find people working at home, and it's not unlawful, in general, to be working from home or even conducting a business from home. However, there are generally some limitiations that will vary from city to city outlining what you can and can't do with regard to business activity in a residential neighbourhood. There may be traffic limitations, there may be limitations on the type of business. For example, you can't really conduct a retail store from home, and the reason, of course, is there would just be too much traffic flow and parking problems and it would just be unfair to the neighbors. You're going to need to look at the particular business activity being carried out by your neighbor to determine whether it's something that's permitted or not.
What kinds of residential businesses violate residential zoning laws?
Generally, the sorts of businesses that you're not going to be able to conduct out of the house are those which one would expect to be an unreasonable interference with the neighbors and enjoyment of their residences. Things that cause a lot of traffic, things that bring too many people to the property can violate zoning laws. You can't put up a clothes rack in your front yard and regularly sell clothing from the front yard of your house, or your garage, for instance. The retail uses that have a large traffic flow, or have significant parking problems, are not going to be allowed in residential neighborhoods as they will violate zoning laws.
What steps should I take to fight a business neighbor?
If you have a neighbor who is using their property for a business and their use isn't lawful, the first thing you'll probably want to do is contact the appropriate governmental authority. Unless it's illegal behavior, where you could call the police, you're probably going to end up calling the building and safety department or maybe the local planning board and making a complaint and asking them to cite the neighbor for their unlawful use of the property. And hopefully that citation will either end the problem, or the city will take it through whatever normal processes to require that owner to cease their use.