Neighbors making my life a nightmare what are my rights?

In the United States there seems to be a decrease in common decency. Never has this been more apparent than in neighborhoods where some neighbors stay up until all hours of the night blaring loud music, talking too loud, and shining bright lights. 

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “What can I do if my neighbors are making my living conditions a nightmare. At all hours of the night they shine bright lights, shout, and play loud music. Unfortunately, their behavior has even escalated to calling me names, making threats, and damaging my property. What are my legal rights?”

My rights and annoying neighbors

The good news is you do have the legal right to enjoy your property without excessively loud and noisy neighbors disturbing you. Unfortunately, if the issues have already caused the interactions between you and your neighbor to escalate to physical violence than a friendly chat between the two of you to resolve the issue is probably out of the question.

In fact, if you did go to talk to your neighbors and the interaction became physical then this could be a criminal rather than civil matter. Consider also; if you initiated the physical action you could be arrested and charged with assault (or a similar charge).

What civil charges can I file?

Since we’ve decided that a nice conversation will not change your neighbor’s actions it’s time to review your legal options.

First, if you live in an apartment or any living situation where you and your neighbor have signed a contract then there are contractual obligations for each tenant not to create too much noise or disturb the peace. In this case, you would address your concerns with your landlord who would need to review whether your neighbor is breaching their contract.

If you do not live in an apartment, however, you will need to review your city’s ordinances. Many cities have created statutes which outline what actions can be considered “disturbing the peace.” They may also have noise ordinances which outline how loud music can play or at what hours it can be played in a residential area.

For example, a quick Google search of noise ordinances in Montgomery County, Maryland, shows the ordinances for noise, including the specific hours of the day the loud noises can occur and the specific decibels allowed.

According to the county’s homepage, “Violators of the noise ordinance are subject to a civil penalty of up to $500, increasing to $750 for repeat offenders; construction operations may be subject to a stop work order.”

Filing a civil case

If after filing a complaint with the city your neighbors are still failing to comply with their civic duty, it may be time to escalate your reaction and file a nuisance lawsuit.

Under a nuisance lawsuit you are claiming that your neighbor’s actions have eliminated your right to use and enjoy your property. Remember, it is a civil not a criminal action. You will, however, have to provide evidence for your case.

To win your case will need to prove there is excessive noise, the person you are suing is responsible for the noise, your enjoyment of your home has been eliminated or reduced, and you have asked them to stop and they have refused.

To bolster your case consider keeping a diary or log, taking pictures, or creating a video of the disturbance. You may even have witness testimony, a recording, or a police report (if the police have been called to the residence).

You may also want to talk to a personal injury lawyer. They can ensure that you understand the laws in your jurisdiction and what actions are most likely to work, how to protect yourself, and what actions on your part could be considered illegal (i.e., going over there and punching your neighbor in the face).

What remedies can I expect?

If you report your neighbors to the city and the city determines they are violating the local noise ordinances, the city will generally assess a certain monetary fine against them (as determined by county or city ordinance).

In some cases, if a civil claim is filed, you could receive compensation for your loss or injuries, the court could also issue an injunction ordering your neighbors to stop playing music or making too much noise.

Bottom Line:

While you have the legal right to enjoy your property, when that enjoyment begins to impede the abilities of your neighbors to also enjoy their property, your rights cease.

The good news is that most people are reasonable and if they are doing things that are annoying they will stop when asked. Other neighbors, however, are not as nice. It may take legal action or a formal complaint to your city or county officials to get their attention.

Talk to a personal injury lawyer if you have questions about the legal remedies allowed in your jurisdiction or if you would like to file an injury complaint.

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