Private Nuisance Definition: Elements & Legal Examples

As a property owner, you have the right to enjoy the use of your property any way you see fit. However, this right is not absolute and does come with restrictions. When another individual, such as your neighbor, causes unreasonable interference so that it interferes with the enjoyment of your own land, a nuisance case could be made against the individual. Let’s dive deeper into the nuisance definition, elements of a nuisance tort, and some private nuisance case examples.

What is a Private Nuisance

A private nuisance is when one individual unreasonably interferes in the enjoyment of another individual’s use of their land. The most common cases involve nuisance among neighbors. Nuisance can involve anything that annoys, inconveniences, or discomforts the other party. This ‘annoyance’ can be in the form of:

  • Noise 
  • Vibration
  • Loud sounds 
  • Unsightly aesthetics
  • Foul odor
  • Threat of injury

Private nuisance differs from public nuisance in that public nuisance affects the broader community, whereas private nuisance only affects an individual. An example private nuisance complaint would be if Sam’s neighbor has a large dog that barks excessively through the night. The barking happens every night, and lasts for at least ten minutes straight, waking Sam’s toddler. Additionally, the dog lunges up towards the short fence dividing their properties and barks viciously each time someone walks near the fence. Sam, files a nuisance case against his neighbor for the noise as well as the threat of injury from the vicious dog. Private nuisance law looks to balance the enjoyment of one property owner with the other. Sam’s neighbor has the right to enjoy all the benefits of dog ownership. However, Sam also has the right to enjoy his own property without excessive interference from the neighbor’s dog. 

Why Seek Legal Action

Nuisance laws allow you to seek legal action when another party unreasonably infringes on the enjoyment of your property. You should seek legal action because it’s your right and because it’s in the state’s best interest to maintain a quality of life for their residents. Each state and local jurisdiction aims to maintain a certain quality of life for their communities. Indicators for quality of life can include economic factors, such as affordability, tax burden, job prospects, etc. However, it can also include things like air quality, cleanliness, well-maintained streets and buildings, and more. States and cities want to maintain a certain standard of living so that their residents can enjoy what the city has to offer as well as their own property without unruly interference. Quality of life indicators are also all closely intertwined with each other. For example, keeping buildings or streets from becoming dilapidated or overgrown by vegetations not only looks nicer but prevents crime or drug trafficking to occur.

Elements of a Private Nuisance Case

To be successful in a private nuisance lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove three private nuisance elements:

  1. The plaintiff owns the property.
  2. The defendant acted in a way that interfered or disturbed the plaintiff’s use or enjoyment of the property.
  3. The act was unreasonable.

The first element is typically non-controversial and is easy to prove. You could be a property owner or even a tenant in an apartment building.  The second element is essentially saying the plaintiff indeed suffered damages due to the defendant’s actions. Damages can be physical (i.e. injury), but it can also include a monetary measure of:

  • Personal discomfort
  • Inconvenience
  • Annoyance
  • Costs for removing or stopping the nuisance
  • Loss of business profits

The third element mandates that the interference was unreasonable and substantial in nature. It prevents the plaintiff from claiming petty annoyances that likely occur every day. What constitutes as unreasonable? The courts look at a variety of factors relevant to the context of the situation to determine an unreasonable act. Going back to our previous example with Sam’s neighbor’s dog. Let’s say the dog barks every time a police siren drives by. While it may be irritating for Sam, there likely is no grounds for a nuisance claim. It’s reasonable to expect dogs to bark when triggers like the siren, doorbell, or other sudden noises occur. What is unreasonable is having a dog barking excessively in the middle of the night, disrupting you, and your family’s sleep.

Know Your Legal Options

If you believe you have grounds for a nuisance case, consider the following items before heading to the courts:

  • Understand the law: Consult with your state or city laws regarding what constitutes a nuisance. Each local jurisdiction will vary in their regulations.
  • Try resolving with your neighbor: Try to resolve the issue before heading to the courts. Write a demand letter – a letter that requests the neighbor to stop the activity causing the nuisance. Even if it doesn’t work, a demand letter shows the court you’ve attempted to resolve the situation outside the courts.
  • Quantify your damages: You need to decide how much you are going to sue for based on the interference you are experiencing.
  • Documentation: You’ll need evidence and documentation of the nuisance.
  • Consult with an attorney: A qualified attorney will help you investigate the nuisance claim and build your case based on the evidence.

Valiente Mott

As mentioned, to be successful in a nuisance case you must be able to demonstrate the legal elements of nuisance. If you’d like to know whether you have grounds for a nuisance case, contact us today! Valiente Mott provides Nevada personal injury attorney services to victims in need of representation. We offer a free consultation, and you only pay if we win the case. Call us at (702) 623-2323 to discuss your case with us. 

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