Taking A Neighbor To Court
Taking A Neighbor To Court
Howard Gould (Neighbor Law Expert, Finestone & Richter) gives expert video advice on: What is the best way to let my neighbor know there's a problem?; Can I handle a neighbor dispute in small claims court? and more...
What is the best way to let my neighbor know there's a problem?
Well the best way is always to remember to be neighborly, to approach them in the way that you would want someone to approach you. Often it's best to talk to them as if it's a common problem and it's something that really affects both of you They may not even know there's a problem; do don't assume that they do. Act as if you are advising them for the first time that this issue exists, unless you know that they are already aware of the problem and it's something that's recurring. So approach them in as reasonable and gentle a manner as you can with an expectation that you're going to work on something together.
Can I handle a neighbor dispute in small claims court?
Small claims court is generally a place where you can handle an issue without a lawyer. You are usually not allowed to take in a lawyer, that is part of the idea of the procedure. It is supposed to be simple, cost effective, hopefully inexpensive and quick. There are all of these jurisdictional limits in every state as to how much the dispute may involve so that you can take it to small claims court. It may be $5. It may be $7,5. It may even be more than that in some jurisdictions. So, you'll have to look at how much that limit is. Sometimes people, even though their claim is above that limit, will decide on the small claims court in order to be cost effective and they will sue for the amount that meets the jurisdictional limit of the court and will waive the amount above it. That is not unusual. You will see people do that from time to time, even small businesses, because it is generally a lot faster. The one thing to remember in small claims court is that usually only the defendant can appeal. The plaintiff has to accept whatever decision the first judge makes. Then if there is an appeal, it is generally a completely new trial and the judge that hears the appeal isn't bound in any way by what happened in the trial in the small claims court.
What can I expect if I sue my neighbor in regular court?
The court systems will vary from state to state. We used to have what we called Municipal Court and Superior Court and we have now unified those in the Superior Court which hears claims. We have what are called limited jurisdiction claims and unlimited jurisdiction claims the amount being $25, or below or above $25,. In other states, there will be different systems. In some places it's not called Superior Court; it's be called District Court. So you have to find out what the terminology is in the place where you live. You don't necessarily have to have a lawyer in order to file a lawsuit whether in small claims court or Superior Court. You can file in what we call in propria or more formally in propria persona. In which case, you don't have a lawyer. That is perfectly acceptable, although you are in general taking a lot more risks in doing things in that manner because in court procedures are very important and sometimes people lose their rights simply by not following the proper procedures.
When would I need a temporary injunction against my neighbor?
Well let's say your neighbor has a construction project that they've started and they're actually digging on to your property, now you have an emergency. You don't want that to go very far. The farther it goes, the harder it may be to stop it. Plus they may be damaging your property by that construction, if they're undermining your structure on your property, obviously you can't wait a long time to get relief. You need immediate relief.
What do I need to know about suing a landlord?
Landlord-tenant relationships are, for the most part, going to be based on the contract you've made on your lease, so you need to read your lease carefully and make certain what rights you have under the lease. However, the lease doesn't necessarily define all of your rights. There are some rights that you have that are implied by law. That could either be an city ordinance, sometimes on a rent control ordinance or rent stabilization ordinance. It could be in a state statute or sometimes we have rights that are developed in case law in our common law that you have as well. Those are going to be the first places you're going to look to determine what your rights are. Sometimes you may be able to find local organizations that will give you free advice: legal aid organizations of various kinds. It may be run by a local bar association. It may be run by some sort of religious organization. It may be run by a county bar association, where you can call to get some assistance. Again, if there's a rent control ordinance, or a rent stabilization ordinance, call the city office that runs that to find out if there is some law that applies to your particular problem.