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Neighbors, nuisances, and the law

On Behalf of | Mar 30, 2023 | Real Estate Disputes

Conflicts between neighbors are a common occurrence throughout Washington. They can sometimes lead to years-long feuds and cost participants thousands of dollars. But the courts are restrained mainly by common and statutory law from intervening. A nuisance case has to reach a high bar before a court steps in.

What is a nuisance?

The idea of a nuisance is at the heart of real estate disputes involving neighbors. While it varies from state to state, in Washington, a nuisance is an action that harms other people’s use of their property or the public in general. The most common nuisances have to do with noise and pollution. Individuals can also become nuisances with threatening behavior and physical trespassing. A public or private nuisance can be remedied with an injunction. This court order requires an individual to abide by the dictates of a judge or risk fines or even imprisonment in egregious cases. It is a clear example of a court siding with one party in a dispute over another party.

Rules and limitations

An injunction is a powerful force in a dispute between two neighbors. As a result, the injunction process has many restrictions and exceptions. The nuisance has to be persistent and pervasive. It has to be behavior that is likely to continue without the presence of the injunction. The behavior also has to be correctible by the injunction. It cannot cause unnecessary harm to the economic activities of a business either.

Some cases are mostly off-limits from court intervention. Injunctions cannot be simply a question of appearance or a factor that a person knew about before moving into their residence. Any nuisance that overcomes these stipulations may be grounds for an eventually successful lawsuit.