What Is a 'Private Nuisance' in Terms of the Law?

by Shelley Frost
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It's natural to feel annoyed if your neighbor plays loud music or blocks your driveway, but when do those things become a private nuisance in the eyes of the law?

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Understanding what this legal term means helps you determine if you're being affected by it.

What Is a Private Nuisance?

The private nuisance legal definition is a nuisance situation that violates the personal rights of just one or a few people. Specifically, it causes harm against property, making the plaintiff unable to use or enjoy their property. The violation has to cause a substantial and unreasonable interference with the plaintiff's rights. This is different from a public nuisance, which interferes with the rights of the general public or a large number of people.

Private nuisances are often caused by neighbors. Your neighbors have the right to do things they enjoy on their property, but if those activities interfere with your enjoyment of your property, they could be considered a private nuisance.

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What Kind of Actions Make Someone a Private Nuisance?

You have a right to enjoy your property without unreasonable interference. Things that disrupt that enjoyment could be classified as private nuisances. This could include loud noises, bad odors, vibrations or unattractive aesthetics. Some examples include:

  • A persistently barking dog
  • Loud music
  • A vicious, threatening animal that lunges toward you from the neighbor's yard
  • Soil pollution on your property
  • Bright lights shining onto your property
  • Tree branches overhanging your property

How Do You Report a Private Nuisance?

If you're dealing with a private nuisance situation, you'll usually need to take legal action in court. You can sue the offending party for damages or file a claim to get an injunction, which is an order for the defendant to stop doing the action that's creating the nuisance. In many cases, you simply want the nuisance to stop, so you might go for an injunction.

In some cases, the nuisance could create a situation where monetary compensation is an option. This happens if you experience a loss or injury. For example, if the nuisance causes a loss of value in your property or keeps you from using it, you could receive compensation for that. You might also qualify for financial compensation for emotional distress or discomfort you experience.

If you want to take legal action regarding an ongoing private nuisance, talking to a lawyer is a good first step. A lawyer experienced in nuisance cases can tell you if you have a strong argument and what type of relief you might get by taking legal action.

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How Else Can You Handle a Private Nuisance?

Because you're likely the only one who's being affected by the issue, you might be able to handle the problem directly. If you feel safe doing so, try talking to the person who's causing the nuisance. Avoid being confrontational or overly emotional. Simply explain how their actions are affecting you and suggest a reasonable solution. If your neighbor plays loud music late at night, and it keeps your kids awake, you might ask them if they could turn down the music after a certain time each night. They can still enjoy their music, and you can enjoy a peaceful night's sleep.

If you live in an apartment, try contacting the property management company to handle the issue on your behalf. This eliminates the need to talk to your neighbor directly. If you own your home, but the offender rents their home, you might try calling the owner or landlord of that property to see if they can talk to their tenant.

Some types of private nuisances might be things you can report to local authorities. For instance, if it's a noise issue, the person could be violating a noise ordinance in your area. Your local police department might respond to the incident. If your neighbor has overgrown weeds that encroach onto your property, you can call the local code enforcement authority.

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Elocal Editorial Content is for educational and entertainment purposes only. Editorial Content should not be used as a substitute for advice from a licensed professional in your state reviewing your issue. The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the eLocal Editorial Team and other third-party content providers do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of eLocal or its affiliate companies. Use of eLocal Editorial Content is subject to the

Website Terms and Conditions.

The eLocal Editorial Team operates independently of eLocal USA's marketing and sales decisions.

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