Maryland attorneys at Snee, Mahoney, Lutche & Helmlinger (SMLH) discuss dealing with nuisance neighbors and the best actions to take.
It is unfortunate that some neighbors can be less than neighborly, and less than considerate of those around them. The following are common questions, definitions and advice relating to disputes with neighbors.
1. What is a private nuisance? A private nuisance is a non-trespassory invasion of another’s interest in the private use and enjoyment of land. Trespass involves interference with one’s possessory interest, while nuisance pertains to interference with one’s enjoyment and use of property. If noise causes physical discomfort and annoyance to those of ordinary sensibilities, tastes and habits and seriously interferes with the ordinary comfort and enjoyment of their homes, and thus diminishes the value of the use of their property rights, it constitutes a private nuisance, entitling those offended to damages. So long as the interference is substantial and unreasonable, virtually any disturbance of the enjoyment of the property may amount to a private nuisance. The injury to the use and enjoyment of property must be of such a character as to diminish materially the value of the property as a dwelling and seriously interfere with the ordinary comfort and enjoyment of it.
2. What is a public nuisance? The doctrine of nuisance has evolved to protect the property rights of the public as well, where a “right common to the general public” has been interfered with. A public nuisance is an injury to the public at large or to all persons who come in contact with it. Thus, while the same activity may give rise to both a public and a private nuisance, the difference is in whether the property rights affected are either confined to private ownership or are cast broadly across the general public. For example, a livestock feed lot or a refinery may produce pests or odors over such a wide area that the rights of the general public are affected and, at the same time, nearby private landowners may suffer extraordinary interference with the use and enjoyment of their own lands.
3. What are nuisance laws? Nuisance laws are specific to helping address the issue of nuisance neighbors, including acts or conditions created, performed, or maintained on private property that constitutes a local code violation and negatively impacts the well-being of other residents, is injurious to public health, safety, or welfare, or obstructs the reasonable use of property. Nuisance laws differ by county in Maryland.
4. What type of relief is available for nuisance? Where there is a non-trespassory invasion of rights in real property occupied by the owner of a home, a case may be brought for a temporary restraining order to abate the nuisance, an injunction, and damages. The measure of damages is the diminution in the value of the use of the property as a home. The elements to be considered in the loss of the value include the ordinary use and enjoyment of the home, and may also include sickness or ill health of those in the home caused by the nuisance. A person who occupies a home is not limited to the recovery of the diminished rental value of it, but may be compensated for any actual inconvenience and physical discomfort which materially affected the comfortable and healthful enjoyment and occupancy of his home.
Sometimes nuisance neighbors can seriously affect the ability to enjoy life. If you feel your neighbor is interfering with your enjoyment and use of your property, contact attorneys at SMLH for legal guidance.