Stopping Noise, Odors, Light Trespass and Other Nuisances
A fourth of all U.S. households suffer some excessive noise, odors light trespassing into their homes or other nuisances. Frequently, you can nix a nuisance on your own – without the need to hire CEDS or other professionals – through the Tips for Resolving Nuisances given below. But if you need help right away or you are still plagued by a nuisance after exhausting the tips, then contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org.
We have separate webpages focusing on the three most common nuisances. To go to these webpages click the links below:
- Light Trespass – https://ceds.org/lighttrespass/,
- Noise – https://ceds.org/noise/,
- Odor – https://ceds.org/nuisanceodor/.
TIPS FOR RESOLVING NUISANCES
CEDS has been helping people eliminate neighborhood noise, odors, light trespass and other nuisances for more then three decades. Following is the approach we’ve found to be most effective. The approach works with nuisances caused by a neighbor, a dog kennel, a truck stop or even a highway.
In the following paragraphs the person(s), business or agency causing a nuisance is referred to as the responsible party. For nuisances coming from a home near you check out the great Readers Digest article 12 Steps to Dealing With Bad Neighbors.
Talk with the Responsible Party
Your first step should always be direct contact with those you believe to be causing the nuisance – the responsible party. Usually the responsible party is obvious: a neighbor or a small business owner. If the nuisance is coming from larger businesses, a government agency, etc. then it’s usually best to first go right to the top – the business owner-manager or agency director. Frequently, the folks at the top are the most sensitive to the negative publicity resulting from causing harm to others and have the greatest authority to resolve the issue. Getting to these CEOs can be difficult, but is worth a try since you’ll usually end up speaking with someone higher up in the organization.
Be Reasonable & Positive
When approaching the responsible party present your concerns along the following positive, nonthreatening lines…
“Hi. I’ve been having trouble sleeping because of a loud noise that sounds like (describe). I believe the noise may be coming from your property. If this is correct then I’d like to see if there’s a way the noise can be reduced so it doesn’t disturb my family and me.”
Don’t Insist on One Solution
There are usually several ways to solve a nuisance. Occasionally folks get wedded to the first solution they think of. Don’t make this mistake. Instead consider all solutions as you work with the responsible party to find that which works best for everyone.
File A Complaint
If the reasonable approach doesn’t work, then a call to the local police can be your first action, especially for very disturbing nuisances or that which occurs infrequently. Your local zoning or code-enforcement agency may be in a better position to deal with an ongoing nuisance issue. You can usually find these agencies through an online search using keywords like:
- the name of your town, city or county, and
- zoning enforcement, or
- code enforcement, or
- nuisance complaint.
An informal CEDS survey showed that filing a complaint was the most effective action and resolved 61% of noise and other instances of nuisances.
Seek Help from Local Elected Officials
Your County, City or Town council member or commissioner can get things done far more easily then most of us. You can usually find these elected officials through an online search using keywords like:
- the name of your town, city or county, and
- town council or board, or
- city council, or
- county council, supervisors or commissioners,
If you are dissatisfied with the action taken on your complaint then contact the local elected official(s) who represent you.
Strength in Numbers
If your initial efforts to work with the responsible party and your local elected officials fail, then does it affect others in your neighborhood? If yes then explore options for getting your neighbors to join with you in demanding action. Generally, the more people who support your position, the more likely a successful outcome. Detailed recommendations will be found in the CEDS Mobilizing Public Support for Preserving Neighborhoods webpage at: https://ceds.org/mobilize/.
Give CEDS a Call
If the preceding actions have failed to halt a nuisance then contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org. We’ll be delighted to spend a few minutes exploring options you may not have pursued. There will not be any charge for this brief initial advice. And if we can’t nix the nuisance with this no-cost service, we can usually get it for fixed for a fee as low as $300 to $500.
CEDS Good Attorneys Network
Though it is seldom needed, there on occasions when the preceding steps fail to halt a nuisance. An option of last resort is to retain an attorney take actions such as:
- Call the person causing the nuisance or send them a lawyer-letter threating legal action, or
- Pursue a legal nuisance action against the responsible party.
The CEDS Good Attorneys network consists of several hundred lawyers nationwide with a good reputation for representing citizens with a variety of issues impacting a neighborhood or the environment. Contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org to explore the possibility of retaining one of these attorneys to assist your effort.
After learning the details of your case we’ll send a summary to the good attorneys in network for your state to learn if any are available to assist you. We will need to charge a fee of $300 to draft the summary then coordinate with the attorney.
The attorney will likely charge a fee of $1,000 or more. In some cases a law clinic will represent folks free of charge (pro bono) with nuisances. To explore this possibility do a search using the keywords: your state and law clinic or legal aid.
NUISANCES HARMING AMERICAN NEIGHBORHOODS
According to the American Housing Survey neighborhoods across the nation are affected by the following nuisances.
Street noise or traffic is the most prevalent nuisance and affects 26% of all neighborhood households. For 11% of household traffic is merely bothersome while its so bad that the residents of 4% of households say its got them thinking of moving.
In addition to traffic noise, 2% of those living in neighborhoods composed of single-family detached homes are bothered by other noise. Of those living in townhouses or apartments, 17% report noise from their neighbors as an issue.
Residents report that crime is present in 15% of their neighborhoods and 4% find the level of crime sufficient to cause them to search for another place to live.
Bothersome odors affect 3% of neighborhood residents and has caused a third of these people to search for another home.
Litter & Housing Deterioration
2% report these issues as a problem in their neighborhood.
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, Americans rate their neighborhood 7.8 on average. The rating system includes factors in addition to nuisances such as quality of schools, availability of public transportation, retail services, building security, police and other emergency services, etc.
CEDS NUISANCE SURVEY
Due to a paucity of basic research, CEDS conducted an informal nationwide nuisances survey. A total of 137 people from nine states took the CEDS Neighborhood Nuisances Survey. For the most part these folks are leaders of community or environmental organizations.
The results of the CEDS survey generally mirror those of the American Housing Survey. The most common nuisance reported is speeding on neighborhood streets (67%) followed by traffic noise (34%), noisy dogs (29%), juvenile misbehavior (28%). and traffic congestion on neighborhood streets (27). The 17 other nuisances noted by the respondents will be found in: CEDS Neighborhood Nuisances Survey Summary.
Quality of Life Impact
Two-thirds reported that nuisances cause a somewhat- to moderately-negative impact to their quality of life. However, 5% said the nuisances were so bad they they’ve considered moving.
The survey form provided four options for actions taken to resolve nuisances. Slightly more then half reported speaking with the person causing the nuisance and filing a complaint. Two-thirds contacted a local elected official. Only 11% sought out a lawyer. A number of other actions were also reported and can be found in the Survey Summary.
Most Effective Actions
By far, filing a complaint was the most effective action and resulted in full or partial resolution of a nuisance 61% of the time. Speaking with the person causing the nuisance was the next most effective (41%) approach followed by contacting an elected official (38%). Speaking with a lawyer was the least effective (33%) action.
The last question in the CEDS survey asked respondents to offer advice to others seeking to resolve nuisances. Of the 137 folks who completed the survey, 93 offered their thoughts on this question. Much of the advice mirrors what CEDS has found to be the most effective approach for eliminating neighborhood nuisances. A summary of this approach was given in Tips For Solving Nuisances above.