Real Estate Law

Dealing With Your Neighbors

Key Takeaways

  • Some common situations that lead to disputes among neighbors include maintaining shared fences, construction projects, and loud or obnoxious behavior.
  • It is important to keep a record of the behavior that you find to be a nuisance and your attempts to resolve the behavior.
  • If trying to talk to your neighbor doesn’t work, you may want to file a legal action in court. 

Living in close proximity to your neighbors can be a wonderful experience. It can mean summers of shared barbeques, advice about your plants and landscaping, and people to count on in the case of an emergency. Living in close proximity to your neighbors can also lead to disputes. Some common situations that lead to disputes among neighbors include maintaining shared fences, construction projects, and loud or obnoxious behavior. 

Ideally, you can resolve any disputes with other neighbors amicably. But people don’t always see eye-to-eye. As a last resort, you may need legal advice. Talk to a real estate lawyer if you are having problems dealing with bad neighbors or zoning issues.

Fence or Common Boundary Disputes

Many homeowners have a fence separating their property from the property next door. If a fence is to be built on the property of more than one landowner, then it is best to put an agreement in writing. The agreement should cover things such as maintenance and repairs so that you and your neighbor can both understand your responsibilities.

If a dispute arises, the agreement may be legally enforceable. If there is nothing in writing, the court may consider your past behavior with regard to maintenance and repairs. For example, if you spent time and money keeping the fence looking good, that could affect who the court views as the one with the ongoing responsibility for upkeep. It may also depend on where the fence is along the property line.

Easement Views

A view easement, or a scenic easement, is designed to protect your view. The best way to protect the view from your property is to have a view easement from your neighbor. The easement becomes a right that is associated with your property and adds value to your property. If the neighbor tries to build or otherwise disrupt your view, then you have a legal claim against the neighbor. 

In the absence of an easement view, your rights usually depend on local ordinances. In most situations, you do not have the right to prevent your neighbor from building, even if it will diminish your view. However, local zoning laws may regulate building heights, setbacks, and other types of construction.

Property Encroachment or Trespassing

Your neighbors do not have any special entitlements to trespass on your property. Unless your neighbors hold legal easements for the use of your land, then they do not have any greater right than anyone else to be on your property uninvited. However, a neighbor walking across your front yard will generally not trigger any legal actions and may just be an annoying neighbor.

Nuisances

Property owners have the right to the quiet enjoyment of their property. That means that they should be able to use their property without interference from others. Nuisances can include loud music and noisy neighbors, trash that attracts rodents and pests, or illegal activity.

When deciding if a neighbor’s actions violate your right to quiet enjoyment, courts typically consider the following factors:

  • The duration of the neighbor’s actions
  • The reason for the actions
  • The impact or burden on the property owner

It is important to keep a record of the behavior that you find to be a nuisance and your attempts to resolve the behavior. This includes filing noise complaints and calling animal control or law enforcement. This evidence can help if you have to take the neighbor’s dispute to court.

Unless one of you chooses to move, you and your neighbor will be living in close proximity to one another. It is usually in your best interest to be a good neighbor and maintain a good relationship. However, you still need to protect your property rights. If trying to talk to your neighbor doesn’t work, you may be able to file a legal action in small claims court. Talk to a real estate attorney about your legal rights when dealing with a difficult neighbor.

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