There’s a popular saying that you can’t pick your family, but you can pick your neighbors. Unfortunately, that isn’t always true. Many times, you will have little control over who lives in the homes closest to your own. The local real estate market is notoriously competitive despite recent sales declines, meaning that you may not have the option of deciding against buying a certain property just because you find other people who live nearby questionable.
Other times, you may have selected a neighborhood carefully based on the people who would live near you, only to have a neighbor die or move out, creating a vacancy. Then, someone new buys the house and moves in, or worse, they start renting it out.
If you’re living next to an obnoxious neighbor who doesn’t seem to care about how their lifestyle, maintenance practices (or lack thereof) and other decisions impact you, you might want to take action. Familiarizing yourself with Washington’s law regarding nuisances will inform you about what potential options you have.
What constitutes a nuisance?
Washington’s legal code defines the word nuisance in a broad way that includes public areas, like parks and even water ways. However, it specifically references making people feel insecure in life or in use of their property, as well as acts that affects the safety of others.
In other words, if your neighbor somehow impacts your ability to enjoy your own home, you may be able to hold them accountable for that. If they live uphill and rinse chemicals off their lawn or driveway that then poison your garden, that could give you grounds to take legal action. If they habitually throw loud parties late at night, you may also have rights in that situation.
However, if you simply don’t like the color of their home or the way that they planted the flowers in their front yard, you don’t really have much recourse. Generally speaking, you must be able to prove to the courts that their actions put you in danger, diminish your property value or somehow prevent you from the quiet enjoyment of your property.
Sometimes, working with a lawyer can help you avoid court
When you start talking with an attorney about filing a nuisance lawsuit against your neighbor, it is common for your lawyer to send a cease-and-desist letter prior to actually filing a lawsuit, depending on the circumstances.
Sometimes, simply receiving a letter written by an attorney is enough to get someone to change their behavior and stop infringing on your rights. Even if the letter itself doesn’t resolve the situation, it will at least help bring you one step closer to going to court and resolving the problem permanently.