3 Types of Disputes Covered by Neighbor Law

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3 Types of Disputes Covered by Neighbor Law

Staff Writer · Oct 14, 2009

The three big areas of neighbor law that you need to know in order to defend yourself in case there’s a dispute are: tree laws, fence laws and noise laws. No one likes to fight with their neighbors, but disputes do arise with one or more neighbors threatening a lawsuit. If you’re wondering about your rights, here’s what you need to know:

1. Tree Laws

You may be responsible for the upkeep of your yard in your lease agreement. If so, you have a duty to make sure your trees are cut back so that they don’t reach into your neighbor’s yard. This is known as encroachment, and some neighbors get upset if your trees encroach their property. The neighbors won’t have a legal case until actual damage occurs, but that could easily happen. If there’s a hurricane or storm and the tree limbs in your yard fall over and damage their car, or some structure on their property, you may be held responsible to pay. A neighbor might be proactive and cut down any portion of the trees that have encroached on their property, and they have a legal right to do so in every state.

2. Fence Laws

The point of contention that often occurs between landowners is fence boundaries. However, if you’re in a rent-to-own situation, you need to know your state’s fence laws because it may affect the property you hope to own one day. You might be renting a place and have the landlord’s permission to erect a fence, which may be the basis of a dispute with your neighbors.

Fence laws regulate the appearance of a fence, as well as the height and location. For example, you may not be able to build a back yard fence higher than six feet. Fences can also act as the boundary line between neighboring properties, and fence laws ensure that both neighbors are paying for the upkeep and maintenance of the fence. You need to work out with the landlord if, how and when to deduct those costs from your rent.

3. Noise Laws

There are laws that govern the noise level on properties, including at your apartment. These are often found under zoning laws that affect what you can or cannot do at your apartment. If you are creating too much noise at your apartment, your neighbors might seek recourse against you in small claims court. They’ll plead with a judge, stating that your noise is a nuisance, because it affects their ability to enjoy their house or apartment. The noise level in dispute could come from your animals, music, work from home activities, parties and a host of other activities. It can’t be a one-time occurrence though, if they want a judge to do something. Your neighbor has to prove that you have continuously and substantially interfered with their right to enjoy their property.

The best thing to do is to resolve tree, fence and noise disputes with your neighbors before it escalates to the courts. However, you need to know your neighbor laws in case you find yourself in court.

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