A nuisance is the unreasonable or unlawful use of property in a way that causes damage to others, by preventing them from enjoying their own property. In some situations, nuisance may be a crime; it may also be grounds for eviction if a tenant is the responsible party. Public Nuisance is a nuisance that affects several members of the public or the public at large. Some examples of this could include:
- The noxious fumes emitted from a factory;
- Noxious smells;
- Loud noises;
- The unauthorized burning of materials;
- The posting of obscene or indecent signs or pictures; and/or
- Illegal gambling.
Private Nuisance only affects a limited number of people, such as constant loud music affecting your neighbors. Private nuisance law is responsible for allowing private nuisance lawsuits to be brought when there is an interference with a person’s interest in the use and enjoyment of their own land. An example of this would be if your neighbor plays their radio at 10 p.m. every night, preventing you from having a quiet night. It could be possible to bring a private nuisance claim against them.
Some examples of private nuisance include but may not be limited to:
- Stream or soil pollution;
- Excessive light; and/or
- Loud noises, especially at unreasonable hours.
What Are the Requirements to Bring a Private Nuisance Lawsuit?
In order to succeed in a private nuisance claim, the following requirements must be met for filing a private nuisance complaint:
- Continuous Nuisance: The nuisance cannot be a single, isolated incident. It must continually occur;
- Unlawful Action: If the defendant’s conduct was unreasonable, it could be considered unlawful as opposed to being a simple nuisance; and
- Proof of Damage: You will need to prove that some type of quantifiable damage has occurred to your well-being, or your property. Additionally, you must show that the defendant should have known that the damage was likely to occur, and did nothing to stop the action.
What Relief Will I Get by Bringing a Private Nuisance Lawsuit?
A person may decide to file a private nuisance claim in order to receive some relief from the damages caused by the private nuisance. A court may order the responsible party to stop or limit the activity by issuing an injunction. The parties affected by the nuisance may be entitled to monetary damages, while the responsible party may be jailed and/or fined for criminal nuisance.
Certain activities may violate local zoning laws or ordinances like construction, in which case your city attorney or town counsel could help you bring an action against your neighbor. If you live in a condominium, cooperative, or planned community, the nuisance may actually be prohibited by your bylaws or regulations. In such instances, your homeowner’s association may help you enforce the restriction against your neighbor.
How Do I File a Private Nuisance Claim?
If you believe that the activities of another party constitute a private nuisance, there are several things you should do before filing a private nuisance claim. The first step should be to write the responsible party and request that they stop the activity. It is important that this is a written request, as it could be used as evidence to support your case later on. Emails, voicemails, and any other evidence of communication should be maintained.
You may also wish to contact the police and file a complaint. The exact process may vary from jurisdiction, and may depend on whether you live somewhere that is incorporated. Finally, contact an attorney to learn about your rights and legal options, as well as how to proceed with filing a private nuisance claim with the court. An attorney can then help you form your initial complaint and file your case with the court.
What Is the Difference Between a Public and a Private Nuisance?
Once again, a public nuisance can be defined as an unreasonable interference with the right of the general public to enjoy public property. Such property could include public parks, beaches, and waterways. Any conditions that endanger the health, safety, peace, or comfort of the general public are considered to be public nuisances. An example of a public nuisance would be the pollution of a public reservoir.
As previously discussed, a private nuisance occurs when there is an interference with a person’s interest in the use and enjoyment of their land. Private Nuisance only affects a limited number of people, such as constant loud music affecting your neighbors.
Although the amount of persons affected by the nuisance does not change a private nuisance into a public nuisance, typically a public nuisance will involve more parties being affected. Generally public nuisances involve a violation of state or local laws that threaten the local community’s health and safety. For example, pollution is a common public nuisance issue.
Because of the differences between a private and public nuisance claim, and the amount of parties that may be involved in the different lawsuits, it is important to consult with a local personal injury attorney to assist you in filing your complaint.
What Should I Do if I am Being Sued for Private Nuisance?
If you are accused of being a private nuisance, you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney in order to learn more about your rights, defenses, and the legal system. The damages that you could pay as a defendant can be quite large, and there may be some defenses available to you based on the specifics of your case.
Remember that, in order to recover from a responsible party in civil court, the plaintiff must show:
- You have been engaging in an activity that seriously annoys the plaintiff;
- Your activities have prevented the plaintiff from enjoying their own property;
- You are responsible for the activity and have made no effort to stop; and
- These activities are unlawful or unreasonable.
As previously mentioned, the best way to prevent a lawsuit in the first place is open communication between neighbors. If you are being bothered by a neighbor’s activity, you should speak with each other and attempt to reach a resolution on your own.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Private Nuisance Lawsuit?
Whether you are experiencing a private nuisance, or are being accused of private nuisance, you should speak with a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury lawyer. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand your rights, what you are facing, and what defenses may be available to you.
Additionally, an attorney can also help you understand the differences between public and private nuisances, as well as what your state’s laws are regarding the matter. Finally, an attorney can also represent you in court as needed.