What is Nuisance Abatement?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Nuisance abatement is a legal procedure for correcting a situation that is considered a nuisance. Nuisances can take the form of health and safety threats in addition to circumstances that impact quality of life. Thus, issues like poor sanitation, abandoned property, havens for criminal activity, and loud music are all nuisances and can be subjected to nuisance abatement. A number of cities around the world have passed laws that provide a mechanism for this process, in the interests of serving their citizens.

Abandoned properties can be considered nuisances.
Abandoned properties can be considered nuisances.

For individual residents, nuisance abatement allows people to call law enforcement to request action on recurrent nuisances. Law enforcement officers can investigate the situation and provide a recommendation to move forward if it appears to be warranted. A form of nuisance abatement might involve fining a property owner for failing to maintain a property or for renting the property to tenants who engage in criminal activity.

Loud music can be subjected to nuisance abatement.
Loud music can be subjected to nuisance abatement.

The goal behind nuisance abatement is to provide law enforcement with tools for addressing problems decisively, rather than having to revisit the same problem over and over again. Properties that tend to attract criminal behavior or that contribute to declining property values because of their unkempt appearance are both examples of nuisances that law enforcement may respond to repeatedly. Correcting the nuisance removes the source of the nuisance so that it cannot continue.

One method is enacting strict zoning laws and codes, along with aggressive enforcers. In communities where overcrowded and noisy houses are a problem, for instance, limits could be placed on the number of unrelated people living in a home. This allows law enforcement to take action on notorious party houses or drug dens when it might not otherwise be able to. Likewise, strict codes about habitable conditions allow for addressing of structures that are unsafe or unsanitary.

Effective nuisance abatement requires community cooperation. Residents of an area must report nuisances and provide detailed information about them so that law enforcement can act. Likewise, law enforcement must be proactive about patrolling the community to identify nuisances that are not being addressed for the purpose of prompt intervention.

There has been some criticism of nuisance abatement laws. Some laws designed to address nuisances also have an impact on people in lower social classes who are entirely innocent of any criminal activity. Structuring such laws in a way that does not establish potentially discriminatory precedents is an important aspect of nuisance abatement.

Nuisance abatement may be taken against a neighbor who refuses to properly dispose of garbage.
Nuisance abatement may be taken against a neighbor who refuses to properly dispose of garbage.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Believe it or not, today I was bullied by a 22 year old neighbor who breaks the city ordinance on leash dogs, has constant front yard loud parties until 6 a.m. and her friends in 10 noisy pickups come around constantly to make terrible noises with their motors and music. Then her mother came to yell and scream at me that I played the horn at 8 a.m. the day after the party. They were mad because I woke them. They both came to my house to harass me.

Of course, I called the police, and tomorrow I will go to the police station to file a harassment complaint. Weird! --Maria


I had to put in a noise complaint because of music that was at really loud levels. Now that's stopped, they keep banging doors and stomping their feet when they walk. That does not bother me at all however. In fact, I find it rather funny how childish people are. It even makes me smile a little knowing that sooner or later, they will stub their toes.


As the article says, there is one serious problem with nuisance abatement laws. The laws don't give much slack to the lower class homeowners or renters. Often they simply don't have the money to maintain their yard. Just reminders to keep it free of junk should be enough.

For economic reason, sometimes two or more families need to live in one house, so there's going to be extra noise. Hopefully the neighbors will understand this.


Controlling noise abatement takes the cooperation of the members of a community and law enforcement.

There are many varieties of nuisances - like barking dog nuisance, noise, criminal activity, and poor appearance of property.

If the problem is fairly minor like barking dogs, vehicles parked everywhere, or noise, I think that it would be best if a complaining homeowner talks to the offending homeowner a couple of times before calling law enforcement.

If the behavior continues or the offense is criminal, get help through nuisance abatement.


@indemnifyme - That does sound like it was quite the nuisance for your friend. I think some people go a little bit too crazy with the noise complaints though. I can see if your downstairs neighbors are playing their music so loud your walls are shaking, but sometimes people just make ridiculous complaints!

I used to live in an apartment with thin walls and parquet flooring. When you moved in, you were supposed to carpet 80% of the floor, which I did. Well, my downstairs neighbors were trying to make noise complaints all the time because I *walked* too loudly. I was walking normally, but the apartments just weren't sound proofed very well. Nothing happened to me, and the neighbors moved out as soon as their lease was up.


Sometimes nuisance abatement can be, well, a nuisance. One of my friends used to run a bar in well known bar area in a city. There were some row homes next to the bar, but the area was totally a bar district. It wasn't like a residential suburb or something.

In other words, if you decide to move there you know you're going to be dealing with some kind of noise. Well, the people who lived next door to my friends bar were calling the police because of the noise all the time! The police never did anything to my friend, because the volume of her bar was well within the legal volume for that area. But it sure was a pain for her to deal with talking to the police every time the neighbor called them!

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