WHEN IS A NUISANCE A PREMISES LIABILITY ISSUE?
April 13, 2016
The New York Times has a regular feature called “Ask Real Estate,” where you can list issues that you are having with regards to your rented property, and seek advice. The theme of those posted and addressed on March 19th was nuisance; an act which causes annoyance, offense, problems, and/or injuries. Plenty of behaviors—from noise, to pesticide use, to pets trespassing on property—can be annoying to neighbors, but when does it turn into an injury and become an issue of premises liability? in other words, when is the property owner no longer officially keeping the premises safe for you?
One particular family described renting an apartment without knowing the full picture, so to speak, about the place: once they moved in, they realized subway trains passed beneath their building and made such a loud noise that they couldn’t sleep. The landlord did not inform them about it when they saw the apartment, and they were wondering if they had any rights to break the two-year lease they signed because of it.
A good, initial question that can help with this kind of quandary is: would this be considered a nuisance to a reasonable person? In other words, when you invite friends and family over, and they hear the noise or whatever is causing the nuisance, do they agree with you? In general, in order for courts to find that something is causing injury, it cannot be a nuisance than only bothers one or two people in general, or is considered “unreasonable.”
However, it is also important to note that your landlord failing to disclose this fact could be considered unfair in terms of the contract you signed with them, since many would consider the noise issue to at least constitute an “essential fact.” Although it would be difficult to make the case for injury per se, you may be able to break your lease based on fraud or misrepresentation, or argue for a reduction in rent due to the noise disturbance.
Amenities-related issues also come up, especially with condominium buildings whereby some owners are living in the condos they purchased, and others are renting out those condominiums to others. The issue of who can use amenities—particularly if this use is linked to a nuisance issue like noise—comes up all the time. Technically, owners are breaking the rules if they allow their tenants and/or their tenants’ guests to engage in activities that only they, the owners, are authorized to engage in. In this instance, the condo board can issue owners penalties, or take them to court, depending upon what the bylaws indicate and how strong the case might be.
Smoke from nearby facilities is an issue for many homeowners in specific areas of the country, especially when it causes respiratory and/or cardiac issues in surrounding neighbors. In this particular instance, if the facilities do not respond to the nuisance concerns, getting the health/environment department involved and/or bringing a nuisance suit would likely be warranted in order to protect nearby residents.
Personal Injury Attorney in Clearwater, Florida
Property owners who do not ensure that their property is safe for others can be held liable for injuries that occur on that property. Clearwater attorney Mike Walker understands the pain and expense that arises from annoying and/or dangerous conditions property, and he is dedicated to ensuring that justice is done. Contact Mike Walker today for a free consultation.