Some home owners believe that they can build or do anything on their own property regardless of how it impacts their neighbors. After all, it’s their property, right?
While it ‘s true that the law provides property owners with broad latitude in that regard, it also generally imposes reasonable limitations on those rights. For instance, building codes are designed to protect public health and safety by requiring properly designed and constructed improvements. Although there are always a select few who try to evade such restrictions, most people accept them as a reasonable means of establishing uniform and attractive development, protecting property values, and maximizing use and enjoyment thereof. However, what many people don’t realize (or aren’t willing to recognize) is that the law also embodies common principles of decency known as the doctrines of public and private nuisance.
Generally, to sustain a nuisance claim, one must demonstrate substantial and unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of his or her land. Sources of nuisance claims are manifold and can include unrestrained pets, livestock, insects, noise, lights, vibrations, odors, dust, smoke, fires, pollution, gases, environmental hazards, inoperable or dismantled vehicles, junkyards, spite fences, explosives, fireworks, firearms, burial grounds, factories, businesses, debris, litter, lewd or raucous behavior, flooding, sewage, unreasonable obstructions, storage, and occasionally even computers, swimming pools, and playgrounds, to name a few.
Municipal ordinances and state statutes sometimes codify these principles as well. For instance, the Boulder City Code defines public nuisances to include any thing, act, condition, or use of property which constitutes a statutory or common law nuisance or causes irreparable injury to the public health, morals, safety, and welfare. It also specifies a non-exclusive laundry list of prohibited nuisances, including unsafe, unpainted or neglected structures, hazardous windows, fences or openings that invite trespassers and malicious mischief, unsightly or unsafe yards, walls, fences, driveways or walkways, abandoned furniture or household fixtures, and lumber, junk, debris or salvage materials visible from a public street or adjoining property.
The perpetrator of a public or private nuisance may subject himself to civil or criminal liability, including injunctive relief mandating abatement, fines, compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, and even imprisonment. If you have questions about particular nuisances, contact a competent attorney. Rod Woodbury can be reached at (702) 933-0777 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.