Understanding Neighbor Law
Understanding Neighbor Law
Howard Gould (Neighbor Law Expert, Finestone & Richter) gives expert video advice on: What is the best way to avoid problems with my neighbors?; As a neighbor, do I have a basic right to peace and quiet?; How do I determine the best way to solve a problem with my neighbor? and more...
What is the best way to avoid problems with my neighbors?
The best way to avoid problems with your neighbors is to be aware of what's happening on your property and on their property. To know who lives around you and hopefully have some communication with them. Have some contact with them so that if and when problems develop, you're not getting to know them for the first time. You're not breaking the ice over something that may be an issue or a dispute between the two of you. That is how to avoid problems with neighbors.
What are the dos and don'ts of dealing with a problem neighbor?
The first thing that you want to consider when you're going to have to talk to a neighbor about an issue is what you would do with, really, any problem, is sit back, don't rush off to deal with it, think about what the issue is, what's involved, how it's affecting you, how it's affecting your neighbor. Think about how they're likely to react to what it is that you want to talk to them about. Consider what communications you've had with them in the past and what this communication should be like. Preparation is really very important in everything in life. And that's true even when you're gonna go talk to a neighbor about some potential problem or actual problem between the two of you. You also want to consider what are the rights that you have and what are the rights that your neighbor has. Often, you're gonna have to research those rights. You may be able to do it yourself, there may be some phone calls that you can make, contacting the city, maybe some other people you know, or you may need to contact a lawyer and get some legal advice. So once you've done those things, you understand what your rights are, you've thought about how the problem affects you, affects the neighbor, and then you've decided what it is you want to ask for, the last thing is to consider exactly how you want to approach the neighbor, what you want to say. It may be a phone call, it may be you want to go next door and talk to them, and it may be something as simple as asking, "Did you know about this issue?" phrasing it as a question, trying not to be confrontational, necessarily, if it's not necessary to be confrontational. Because the manner in which we do things often dictates the end result.
As a neighbor, do I have a basic right to peace and quiet?
That will depend on exactly what the issue is. In general, we have a right of quiet enjoyment of our properties that's protected by a variety of neighbor laws or legal theories which may be found in decided cases that our courts have decided here in the United States where we follow the common law system. So it may be in a statute, in a state statute or in a city ordinance.There may be something in the case law that defines your rights. In some circumstances, we have what are called covenants, conditions, and restrictions, CC and R's that have been recorded in particular communities that may give rights. You have to find out from those various sources, given your particular issue, whether you do have a right to complain about something or not.
If I live in a condo, will the homeowner's association handle complaints with my neighbor?
Often the homeowners' association can assist with problems. You need, to take a look at the rules of the homeowners' association. There will be a declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) that will talk about how the association works. The association will also probably have rules and regulations, and there will generally be some procedures that are followed either by a board of directors or some other committee as to how different types of disputes are handled. Many disputes will be handled internally within the homeowners' association, either by hearing both sides or if there's a rule that applies and someone makes a complaint then the association will likely have procedures they follow to enforce those rules. It may be that you don't really have to do much other than advise the homeowners' association that someone is violating a rule and then leave it to the homeowners' association to go forward with whatever their normal procedures would be.
Will a landlord handle all disputes between tenants?
If there are disputes between tenants, you can always talk to the landlord about the problem and see if he is willing to intercede on your behalf and handle the dispute. He may or may not have an obligation to do so if the conduct isn't illegal or unlawful in some way, so the landlord probably doesn't have any obligation to assist you. But, he may be willing to, just for the sake of maintaining peace and quiet within the property in general. You do have a right to quiet enjoyment of your premises. That's an obligation that the landlord will have to you. But, again, it depends on what the issue is. If it's a crying baby next door, obviously, that's just part of life and the landlord is probably not going to be able to step in and do much for you. If someone is dealing drugs next door, that's a different issue, and you can point it out to the landlord, tell him that there's illegal activity going on, and ask him to take some action to cease the illegal activity in his property.
What is a "private nuisance" and what is a "public nuisance"?
A nuisance in general is some conduct that unreasonably interferes with someone's enjoyment of their property. We have what we call "public nuisances" and "private nuisances". A private nuisances is something which affects you alone in the use of your property whereas a public nuisance is something which affects the public generally. You're generally going to be talking about things such as odors, smells, noise, hazardous substances, pollution.