The poet Robert Frost famously wrote that: “Good fences make good neighbors.” But what if there is a problem even fences won’t solve? Louisiana law offers some answers.
Under Louisiana law, a landowner cannot use their property in a manner that interferes with their neighbor’s enjoyable use. While a neighbor may have to put up with some inconveniences, excessive inconveniences that cause damage may be actionable. If a landowner’s activity is considered a nuisance, he may be liable for damages, and the court may require the landowner to stop the activity.
To determine whether a particular activity is considered a nuisance, courts look to the following factors: (1) the character of the neighborhood; (2) the degree of the intrusion; and, (3) its effect on the use and enjoyment of neighboring properties. For example, a person living in a heavy industrial area may have to put up with more noise than someone living in the suburbs. Whether activity is considered a nuisance is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Further, the nature of the noise and its persistence and duration can be a factor in determining whether the activity is a nuisance. For example, in Parish of E. Feliciana ex rel. E. Feliciana Parish Police Jury v. Guidry 2004-1197 (La. App. 1 Cir. 8/10/05), 923 So. 2d 45, writ denied, 05-2288 (La. 3/10/06), 925 So. 2d 515, the court looked not only at the level of the noise, but also at the “nature” of the noise. The court held that noise from a motor cross track was a nuisance, likening the noise to a chainsaw, a buzzing bee, or a dentist drill.
Even when a landowner has a right to conduct a business on his property, he cannot create a nuisance in running the business. Louisiana courts have held that noxious smells, dust, debris, rats, flies, and noise may all constitute a nuisance, even if the business was otherwise lawful.
The duty owed to neighbors applies not only to the landowner, but may also apply to tenants or contractors performing “work” on the property. To prove a nuisance, the offended neighbor must show that the landowner/tenant/contractor either “knew or should have known” that the activity was a nuisance.
When mending fences is not possible, you may have other options.
Chelsea Payne is an associate at Keogh Cox and has been practicing for three years. Her practice mainly relates to construction law and complex litigation. Chelsea enjoys playing tennis and spending time with her family.