Can I File A Private Nuisance Lawsuit Against My Neighbor?

Note: The DearEsq free 'ask a lawyer' site is offered as a free informational service to the public and is not intended as legal advice. Laws vary from state-to-state, and in addition every situation is unique, and relevant facts may not be known. The answer to the question posed below may not apply to in your state or to your situation. For legal advice in your state and your situation you should consult with an attorney in your state who is familiar with the rules and laws in your state.

I live in Baltimore City, with a common alley behind our house. Our neighbors behind us have a basketball hoop in their yard that is now the kid and teenage hangout. The kids are damaging other neighbors’ property, using profanity, and just being plain rude. My little girl cannot even go out into our yard while they are there now. If these kids damage someone else’s property while playing basketball, who is responsible? The kids hit and dented a neighbor’s car and ran away last week. I’ve pleaded to the neighbor with the basketball hoop to take it down but she hasn’t yet. Is there anything I can do?

If the situation is as bad as you describe, you could file a suit against the neighbors for either a private nuisance. A private nuisance creates a disruption for an individual or a small group of people. To prove a private nuisance, you have to establish that you (and/or your neighbors) are experiencing a harm or inconvenience that a reasonable person would recognize as a harm or inconvenience. For example, if your only complaint was the noise of the basketballs and teenagers talking during reasonable hours, you would probably not be able to establish that your neighbor is creating a private nuisance. If, however, the noise is occurring at inappropriate times, and language is being used that a reasonable person would consider inappropriate in a residential area, the teens’ behavior is intimidating and disruptive to a reasonable person, and actual damage is occurring to surrounding property, you may be able to establish a private nuisance. To do this, you would have to file a lawsuit against your neighbors. An attorney specializing in civil litigation can help you with this, or you can file it on your own. If you file it on your own (referred to as pro se), you can contact your courthouse to find out the procedure you must follow. If you succeed in your lawsuit, the court can order that your neighbors take down the basketball hoop, as well as require that the neighbors attempt to discourage people from loitering on the property. A local attorney can help you decide whether a lawsuit is worth the cost, stress, and risk of further problems with your neighbor.