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Residential Real Estate Disputes

Having a good relationship with your neighbors is often an important factor in your ability to enjoy your home and yard. Unfortunately, sometimes a neighbor does things that lessen that enjoyment. Two very common types of residential real estate disputes are noise and boundary issues.

Noise Disputes

While you cannot reasonably expect total silence from neighbors, you can expect them to keep noise to a reasonable level. Unfortunately, you and your neighbor may disagree on what is reasonable noise or acceptable times to make noise:

  • Loud music all day and/or night
  • Late-night parties, even during the week
  • Mowing the lawn before the sun's up on weekends
  • Barking dogs

In the interest of keeping the peace, figuratively and literally, it is a good idea to ask your neighbor nicely to lower the noise level. If that does not work, you are within your rights to call the police the next time it happens. Most communities consider excessive noise to be a form of disorderly conduct, a type of misdemeanor.

Boundary Disputes

Sometimes your neighbor may be inadvertently using a portion of your property. Often there is disagreement over the actual property lines, but not always. Examples include:

  • Your neighbor's fence is several inches onto your property.
  • Your neighbor has roughed out a new driveway that includes part of your property.
  • Your neighbor's tree or hedge has grown so big that its roots or branches are damaging your property or hampering your enjoyment of your yard.

When the problem is a misplaced fence, it is important to resolve it quickly. In some states, the doctrine of adverse possession may grant title to the land to your neighbor if you accept the situation for too long. Often a copy of the plat (a picture of the property survey) will prove your case.

It is also important to act quickly if your neighbor is about to make changes to your property, such as pouring concrete for a driveway. You can stop this by reporting the action as trespassing to the police. Overgrown trees or bushes can be trickier. You might be able to cut off branches hanging into your yard, but in some areas even that is illegal. You may need to go to court if your neighbor refuses to cooperate.

In many residential real estate disputes, a letter outlining your complaint and specifying corrective action can be quite effective, especially if you include a copy of the plat or the local ordinance your neighbor is violating. If you have been unable to resolve your dispute on your own, it is worth contacting a residential real estate lawyer to discuss your options.