HOMEOWNERS AND RENTERS | Dealing with Neighbors and Others


You have a right to keep others from your property but there are limits to what you can do to remove trespassers, so if you believe a situation may involve force or violence, call your local law enforcement agency before doing anything, unless you must act immediately to protect yourself and your family.

Easements for utilities, etc.

Be aware of any utility or other easements that might exist on your property. These give utility companies the right to enter your property to access power lines and so forth. Ordinarily, employees of utility and communications service companies such as cable and satellite services will ask you first before entering, but . . .

  • Be careful. Burglars, thieves and scam artists often masquerade as utility workers to gain entry to their intended victims’ homes, so if someone shows up unannounced and says they need to enter your home to correct some problem that you did not report, DO NOT LET THEM IN under any circumstances.
  • Utility companies don’t typically send out workers to deal with unreported problems. If you feel it is safe to do so, ask for identification and call the utility company using a number from your phone book to verify that they are who they say they are. Otherwise, keep them out and call local law enforcement.


Legally, a “nuisance” occurs when a person’s use of his or her property causes physical harm to neighboring property or to other persons or by preventing others from enjoying their property.

For example,

  • A person who burns garbage on his property so that the smoke invades his neighbors’ properties can cause noxious odors and possible health hazards to his neighbors. His neighbors may be unable to enjoy outdoor activities as a result.
  • A person who blocks the natural drainage that crosses over his property from a neighbor’s property and thereby causes water to flood his neighbor’s property can cause physical damage to vegetation and structures on his neighbor’s property and create a health hazard to all of his neighbors if the waters can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other pests.

In these instances the affected persons may have a claim against the offending landowner for nuisance. Also, public authorities may be able to penalize the offending landowner for violations of state statutes or local ordinances.

Avoid the risk of such liability by maintaining your property and becoming acquainted with the laws and regulations that affect the use of your property. Examine your homeowners insurance policy to determine whether you have coverage for liability for nuisances.

If you have a swimming pool or other equipment that may tend to attract others to enter your property, make sure you have proper fencing to prevent them from entering. These things are called “attractive nuisances” and if someone is injured or killed while using such a thing on your property, then you may be liable. Again, check your insurance policy to see if you have coverage for such events and what conditions and obligations you must fulfill in order for the coverage to exist.

What to do if a neighbor creates a nuisance

If you are affected by a nuisance caused by a neighbor and the situation involves an immediate threat to your or your family’s safety, call law enforcement immediately. Otherwise, if you are unable to resolve the situation amicably, seek legal advice immediately.

Whatever you do, don’t retaliate. That will only aggravate the situation and give your neighbor grounds to sue you. Also, take whatever steps you can to minimize your damage without damaging someone else. Failure to do so can affect the amount you can recover if a lawsuit becomes necessary.