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Bad Neighbors: What Is Nuisance?

House & Apartment

This article talks about nuisance. Nuisance is when a neighbor does something that keeps you from enjoying your home in peace.

What is a nuisance?

Under Texas law, a nuisance is a “condition that substantially interferes with the use and enjoyment of land by causing unreasonable discomfort or annoyance to persons of ordinary sensibilities attempting to use and enjoy it.” In other words, a nuisance is something would annoy a reasonable person.

Public and Private Nuisance

The nuisance will be classified as a public nuisance or a private nuisance depending on the circumstances. If a nuisance causes problems to the general public, it's classified as a public nuisance. If, on the other hand, a nuisance interferes with the right of specific person, it is considered a private nuisance.

What qualifies as a substantial interference?

To be substantial the court will look at a number of factors, including:

  • The nature and extent of the interference
  • How long it lasts
  • How often it reoccurs
  • Any other facts showing how it interferes with your daily life

The court will also take into account the following:

  • The character of the neighborhood
  • The land usage
  • Social expectations
  • The location of the land
  • The extent to which others are engaging in similar conduct in the area
  • The motive in causing the interference
  • Whether the individual can stop or lessen the interference
  • The interest of the public and community at large

The interference must be more than normal small annoyances or disturbances.

What qualifies as an unreasonable discomfort or annoyance?

The Court does not focus on the reasonableness of the neighbor’s actions, but instead focuses on the effect the interference has on your comfort or happiness. The interference must cause an unreasonable discomfort or annoyance to your everyday life.

What are the different types of nuisance claims?

A nuisance claim must fall within one of three following categories of conduct:

Intentional nuisance:  If the neighbor intentionally creates or maintains a condition that meets the nuisance requirements, that neighbor may be liable.  To fall under this category, you must prove that your neighbor intentionally interfered with your comfort.

Negligent nuisance:  Here, you only need to prove that the neighbor acted unreasonably.

Strict-liability nuisance:  Here, the neighbor will be liable if they engage in an abnormally dangerous activity. For example, the use of explosives is usually considered to be abnormally dangerous. A person who causes injury with explosives is liable, whether they did anything wrong or not.

What are examples of a private nuisance?

Examples of private nuisances include:

  • Vibration
  • Pollution of a stream or soil
  • Smoke
  • Foul odors
  • Bright lights
  • Loud noises

What are examples of a public nuisance?

A public nuisance is the same as a private nuisance except that the neighbor’s actions will interfere with the public at large.

Examples of a public nuisance are:

  • Major health hazards
  • Pollution
  • Unsafe storage of dangerous materials
  • Criminal activity
  • Sickening smells
  • Bright lights
  • Loud noises
  • Abandoned vehicles
  • Accumulated rubbish
  • High weeds
  • Other unsanitary conditions.

What will happen if I sue for nuisance?

Winning a nuisance lawsuit might result in any of the following:

Damages:  The damages available depend on the type of nuisance.  If a nuisance is only temporary, the damages available are for the use and enjoyment that were lost. On the other hand, if a nuisance is permanent, the owner may recover lost market value of the property.

Injunctive relief:  An injunction is an order requiring the neighbor to stop the action causing the nuisance.

Self-help abatement:  This remedy gives you the right to abate–or clean up/prevent–the nuisance from occurring.

See Crosstex North Texas Pipeline L.P. v. Andrew and Shannon Gardiner for more information.

Who can I contact if I have a nuisance complaint?

For complaints related to noise, contact your local law enforcement agency for assistance.

For private nuisance complaints, you may want to hire a private lawyer.

For public nuisance complaints, please contact the Texas Department of State Health Services