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What Is Nuisance in Real Estate Law?

When you own a piece of property, you have certain legal rights to use it and enjoy it without the interference of others. If someone else's actions or lack of action prevents the exercise of those rights, that is what a real estate attorney would call a nuisance. Here are the basic issues everyone should know about nuisance in real estate law.

The Significant Interference Standard

Notably, it's not enough for a nuisance to be merely interfering. You might think the smell of your neighbor's grilling is awful, for example, but that doesn't rise to the level of being a true nuisance.

For something to be a nuisance, it must be fairly persistent and something a reasonable person would consider unbearable. If a factory a half-mile away emitted smells that were so bad you couldn't even stand to be outside, that would potentially be considered significant interference.

Larger Societal Value

One defense for a party being accused of creating a nuisance under real estate law is to note that their work creates greater value to society. If a factory was involved in the production of essential metals for the defense industry, for example, that would be a viable defense in most case. A defendant will have to show that there aren't reasonable mitigation measures they could take, though. In other words, they will have to prove they're already making their best effort to curtail the nuisance.

It's also worth looking at a situation where a defendant has no argument. Suppose a person erected a high fence for the specific purpose of obstructing the view for a neighbor they deeply disliked. There is zero societal value in this behavior, and a judge would almost certainly order the defendant to take down the fence.

Previous Conduct

Typically, a nuisance does not have to be removed if it was present at the time the plaintiff took possession of their property. All buyers of properties are obligated to fully assess the potential nuisances from the surrounding area. If no one had previously complained about the nuisance, it will be much harder for a new arrival to successfully pursue legal action.

Purchasing an Injunction

One of the quirkier aspects of nuisance law is the capacity, under some circumstances, for the defendant to purchase the injunction. Suppose the cost of compliance with an injunction exceeds the financial value of the harm done to the plaintiff. In this scenario, the defendant can purchase the injunction, fully compensate the plaintiff, and continue with the nuisance because the plaintiff has legally been made whole.