What you need to know about Neighbor Disputes in California

What you need to know about Neighbor Disputes in California

Sona Sulakian
 | 
Arguments with your neighbor are uncomfortable...and sometimes just unavoidable. In fact, neighbor disputes are becoming ever more common as cities become more densely populated. A 2018 study revealed that slightly over half (57%) of Americans know their neighbors, only 26% of them know most of them, and only two-thirds of those who know their neighbors would trust them with a house key.

However, not all bothersome behavior is legally actionable as a nuisance. California law defines a nuisance as “anything which is injurious to health” that interferes with the use or enjoyment of your property. This includes the illegal sale of drugs, harmful or offensive noises and sounds like loud late night parties, pollution of the soil, or an obstruction on your property. 

So if you’re having neighbor troubles in California, here’s what you need to know.

Can I sue my neighbor?
Depending on the offense, you may be able to sue your neighbor. Before you resort to the legal system, try to resolve the issue with your neighbor or bring up the issue with your landlord. You can also call the relevant government agency, such as the police or animal control. 

If you are unable to reach a mutually agreeable settlement, then a lawsuit may be the most effective means of getting your neighbor to stop by forcing them to compensate you with money damages for your troubles or by issuing an injunction against them compelling them to refrain from the harmful behavior. 

There are two types of nuisances: a public nuisance and a private nuisance. A public nuisance affects the whole neighborhood, while a private nuisance affects a single individual or small group. 

You may bring a lawsuit against your neighbor for a private nuisance to get damages (cash) and an injunction. The court will consider whether the conduct was harmful to health, indecent or offensive to the senses, an obstruction to the free use of your property, and whether the harm outweighs the public benefit of the harmful conduct.

If your neighbor’s behavior constitutes a public nuisance, such as organizing dog fights, then the city has a duty to stop it. You can only sue for a public nuisance if the activity is particularly harmful to you in a manner that is different from the harm suffered by other members of the community. 

You can sue your neighbor even if the nuisance has stopped to recover damages for past harm. 

Can I take actions to stop the issue myself?
You may take action to stop a private nuisance by removing or destroying the nuisance only if you can do so with reasonable care without causing unnecessary damage. What is acceptable is a grey area so this type of self-help is not recommended without consulting with a lawyer. 

Can I sue my landlord? 
Landlords have a duty to ensure that tenants can enjoy the premises peacefully arising from an implied promise in every California lease called the covenant of quiet enjoyment. If you notify your landlord and the landlord doesn’t take action to stop the nuisance, especially if the offender is another tenant, then the landlord may be held liable. 

As a tenant, you may remain on your leased property and sue the landlord for breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment. If the nuisance is offensive that you need to move out,  you can sue the landlord for constructive eviction. 

What are the defenses to a private nuisance claim?
The most common defense is consent. If you allowed your neighbor to continue with his offensive actions, then you generally can’t then complain of those same actions. 

Dealing with troublesome neighbors can be tricky, so it’s important to consult an experienced attorney before you take any actions. LawChamps can connect you with a lawyer to discuss your options.  


This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.
Sona Sulakian

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