Substantial, Continuous, And Unreasonable: When Nuisances Becomes Actionable

The law recognizes your rights to compensation from neighbors who inconvenience or annoy you. However, since some people are extremely sensitive and easily annoyed, there are checks and balances to ensure you only get compensated for serious interferences from your neighbors. In legal jargon, your neighbor's nuisances only become actionable if they are substantial, continuous, and unreasonable. Here is what the terms mean in everyday life:


This refers to the degree of interference the nuisance is causing you. Sure, your neighbor might have offended you, but how much did they offend you? Imagine how much the wheels of justice would be clogged if everybody ran to the court every time they had a small difference with their neighbor. For example, the justice system would collapse under the weight of cases if you sued your neighbor each time their pet crossed into your yard or a whiff of their roast pork (that you don't like) reached your sitting room. 

To avoid such frivolous annoyances, the law will only step in if it considers the nuisance from your neighbor substantial. It is the court's discretion to determine whether or not a reported nuisance is substantial. As an example, a huge compost pit that all the neighbors can smell from their bedrooms would be actionable.


The nuisance you are complaining about must also be continuous for the court to take action against your neighbor. This means a one-time mistake by your neighbor is likely to be excused. For example, you might not have an actionable case if their pet crosses into your yard and takes a dump on your grass once. Such a one-time occurrence means the neighbor has been careful with their pet, and it was probably an accident that is unlikely to occur again. Contrast this with a neighbor that doesn't care for their pet as well as they should—the animal is constantly on your property and treats your front yard as their personal bathroom week after week. In this second example, the nuisance is definitely a continuous one, and you are likely to get attention from the court.


The third condition is that the nuisance must be unreasonable, which means it should be something that any reasonable adult would find annoying. For example, just because you don't like reggae songs doesn't mean your neighbor is causing you nuisance if they play reggae songs day after day as long as the volume isn't uncomfortable. A reasonable person wouldn't be annoyed just because their neighbor is playing songs they don't like. However, you would have grounds for seeking recourse if the neighbor is playing whatever genre of music at very loud volumes; any reasonable person would be offended by that.

For more information on pursuing a case against a neighbor, contact an attorney.