The neighbor across the lake from your home is practicing her golf swing and your backyard is littered with golf balls. Some have come too close for comfort, threatening to pop a hole in the screened-in patio.
Another neighbor complains about the barking dog left out in the backyard next door. Meantime, friends living in a high-end condo complain about the stench of garlic coming from a nearby unit.
Nuisances are not uncommon since many of those living in homes regulated by associations live in such close proximity to each other. Because homeowner and condo associations can’t lay out in their bylaws every scenario that might come up, most have an anti-nuisance covenant designed to cover such instances. Generally speaking, such covenants prohibit any practice that interferes with the peaceful possession and proper use of the property by its resident. Clearly a bunch of golf balls aimed at a neighbor’s patio are a nuisance.
While barking dogs and cooking smells are some of the more common nuisances, many HOA and condo association attorneys have more than a few interesting stories to tell. For example, the woman living in a high-end condo who, for health-related issues, wasn’t able to take her dogs out for a walk. Consequently, they soiled inside creating a stench that permeated into nearby units. The court got involved and ordered the dogs removed and taken in by a family member. The woman received visitation rights.
In another instance, a woman living in an apartment building banged her broom handle on the ceiling of her unit “to chase away the aliens,” and in the process harassing the neighbor living above her. The HOA brought in the woman’s family to ensure she received the help she required to help keep her on her medication.
At times, HOA attorneys must act as social workers, mediating disputes before they move from battle to full-blown war.
While most would agree that the aforementioned examples could be considered a nuisance, there are times when a neighbor’s behavior might go unnoticed by most, but infuriate one resident. As a result, it’s not a bad idea to lay out as many common nuisances as possible in governing documents.
Some examples might include:
- Obnoxious odors –smoke, cooking smells, etc.
- No loud music or parties during specific hours
- Picking up after your dog
- Smoking in common areas
This will not only educate residents as to what is and isn’t acceptable behavior, but also help when attempting to mediate those disputes.