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Is your neighbor a nuisance -- legally?

Living in a California residential community often means you become part of a homeowners' association. More than likely, it also means that you live within close proximity to your neighbors. Your neighbor may engage in some activity that you consider a nuisance, but you don't think you can do anything about it.

That's where you may be wrong. More than likely, the covenants, conditions and restrictions that govern your HOA may include a section relating to common nuisances. This means that you could have some form of recourse against your neighbor's more-than-annoying behavior.

Nuisance is a legal term

You may not have realized that "nuisance" has a legal definition that includes the following:

  • An activity or behavior that violates federal, state or local law
  • An activity or behavior that interferes with your quiet enjoyment or use of your property
  • An activity or behavior that creates an offensive, dangerous or noxious condition

As you can see, this could include a variety of behaviors or activities.

Your neighbor's dog could create a nuisance

Does the neighbor's dog bark all night? Does its owner allow it to roam the neighborhood off leash? Does it leave "presents" in your yard? You may not blame the dog for being a dog, but you may blame the owner -- your neighbor -- for his or her dog's actions.

Most local governments have leash laws requiring all dogs to be on a leash in common and other public areas. You may report such a violation to your HOA and/or the local authorities. Even if the dog is in a fenced yard, you may make a noise complaint regarding incessant barking, which may violate a noise ordinance. Your HOA may be able to somehow discipline the owner for any of these nuisances if you don't want to involve local authorities at first.

Your neighbor's children could create a nuisance

Let's face it, children get noisy when they play, and it may irritate you and become a nuisance. Even though your HOA can't discriminate against children, it could enforce noise restrictions in accordance with the CC&Rs and other community rules.

Is your neighbor creating a nuisance?

These are just two examples of common complaints HOAs receive regarding members of their communities. If you are unsure whether some behavior or activity your neighbor engages in constitutes a nuisance, you may refer to your CC&Rs and other HOA rules. Of course, these documents are often full of legalese and can be a challenge to decipher. In order to be sure before taking any action against your neighbor, you may benefit from obtaining a thorough understanding of those documents.

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