What is a Private Nuisance?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 22 March 2020
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A private nuisance is an offense that occurs when the ability to enjoy or benefit from property is negatively affected by the actions of another party. Some nuisances directly affect the innocent party’s property, such as when a person’s lawn is damaged. Other actions may be indirect, such as when the accused party is allegedly responsible for creating or allowing unreasonable foul odors. Although property owners may be more likely to take action when someone interferes with the use or enjoyment of their property, it should be understood that people who are lawfully in possession of land may also file lawsuits. These cases are usually handled as civil matters.

There are numerous situations that can result in a person claiming that she is a victim of private nuisance. One person can do something that damages or destroys a person’s property or something on it. For example, one person may spray chemicals that blow in the wind and kill his neighbor’s grass. A private nuisance may also diminish the value or appeal of a person’s property. An example of this could be if a person places a large pile of garbage in his front yard. This can have the effect of lowering his neighbors’ property value.


A private nuisance may also affect a person’s ability to enjoy her property. If a person continues to place garbage in her yard, for example, a foul odor could develop that annoys the surrounding residents. Noise violations, such as those resulting from loud music or the operation of heavy machinery, may be declared an offense.

Private nuisance is generally a civil offense. When a person takes the matter to court, she is usually looking for one or two results. Her goal may be to win financial compensation for her losses. She may also want an injunction, which is a court order to stop doing something.

There are ways to defend against public nuisance claims. One defense would be for a person to prove that he did not do the things that he is accused of. He may also show that the action, although annoying or disruptive, was necessary. If a major storm passes through an area and uproots numerous trees, a person could argue that the use of sawing and grinding equipment is necessary despite objections posed by a neighbor. The actions of defendants in cases such as this, although negatively affecting another party, are not usually punishable under public nuisance laws.


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Post 1

A private nuisance is not only a civil matter. There are environmental laws which set criminal liability for private nuisance.

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