Put neighbor's pesky piano playing to bed

Tips on filing nuisance lawsuit in small claims court

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Feb. 11, 2011

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You know that large "phone book-size" stack of papers that you didn't really read when you bought your unit? You will probably find that the HOA property manager didn't read it that carefully either, as most governing documents will have language that talks in generic terms about a nuisance.

There are not always clear definitions of what is a nuisance, so that is where you educate your HOA property manager with the local city ordinance definition of a "noise disturbance." From my understanding of your situation, you seem to have met the threshold for most if not all of the five elements that the city feels are important criteria in establishing whether there is a nuisance.

You should also bring this language to the attention of your neighbor and his property manager, in the form of a polite but direct letter. If they continue to refuse to take action, then you should seriously consider filing a small claims action for nuisance.

These actions have been very successful in showing your tenant/neighbor and her unit owner/landlord that you take this very seriously. However, you will need evidence to support your case.

While you can personally testify and make recordings to play for the court, I find that it is best to have third-party documentation. It is unusual in my experience, but you indicated that the local law enforcement officers are unwilling to respond to your complaints, as that is "not their job."

I would suggest that you contact the city building department or code enforcement office and see who does enforce the city's own noise ordinance.

Some entity or department within the city should be responsible for taking these complaints and even if they send out a form letter that may help. However, if you continue to complain (and always do so in writing) then they will ultimately be forced to come out and personally investigate.

Hopefully, the city will issue a citation or at least a warning and often that will resolve the problem, as most people will realize that they are creating a nuisance as established by a neutral third party that has the authority to make such determinations.

Either way, you want the city to make a written report that you can then take to court to authenticate your complaint if the renter next door continues her continuous concert series.

This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold, author of "Property Management for Dummies" and "Property Management Kit for Dummies" and co-author of "Real Estate Investing for Dummies."

E-mail your questions to Rental Q&A at rgriswold.inman@retodayradio.com. Questions should be brief and cannot be answered individually.

Contact Robert Griswold:
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