When talking about quality of life, what come to most peoples mind is well-maintained and quiet neighborhoods as well as clean and safe environments. Among the most effective tools that communities can use to protect their qualities of life and make sure there is public health welfare and safety, is a nuisance ordinance. A hands-on approach towards nuisance abatement can help in governing and regulating the conditions of property in a community and how it is maintained. It can keep a community attractive while also playing a role in efforts of economic development and minimizing crime. Nuisance abatement involves using building codes, zoning codes, fire codes and others to resolve issues of life safety in a community in a way that improves the quality of life. This essay discusses whether the right to abate a nuisance is an anachronism in the 21st century.
Whenever something is annoying, people often consider it as a nuisance. All in all, a difference is present between what people find annoying and what can legally be classified as a nuisance. According to Frank (2015), courts and the law in general can only offer a remedy is the situation that someone raises a complaint about matches with the legal definition of nuisance. Nuisance can be divided into two categories; public nuisance and private nuisance, and both types are about interference with a persons enjoyment of land. Often, public nuisance is a crime and a civil misdemeanor such as an individual blocking a public road. It may incur penalties like imprisonment or fines ordered against anyone who creates anything considered a nuisance. On the other hand, private nuisance is not considered a crime but rather a dispute between two parties.
To understand whether nuisance abatement is old fashioned in this century, it is worth looking at its history. Since time immemorial, the term nuisance has traditionally described a condition or activity that is considered annoying or harmful to others. It has also been used to describe harm resulting from such a condition or activity, and the legal liabilities that occur due to a combination of the two. The nuisance abatement law was drafted with the aim of curtailing such niggling activities if they interfere with the rights of people in general or other private property owners (Frank, 2015).
Over the last century or so, government authorities have used nuisance abatement as a way of stopping conduct considered to be partially criminal. This is despite such conduct not being strictly illegal although it was perceived as unreasonable due to the likelihood of it getting someone injured. According to Witt (2015), notable conduct that was perceived a nuisance includes dumping sewage materials in public rivers, blocking a public road, and playing loud music in public parks. To put an end to such conduct, governments put in place directives that either outlawed the activity causing nuisance, or asking the individual committing the activity to abate the bother.
In recent decades, these governments had not been able to draw lines between the courses of action for public and private nuisances. Lawmakers were warned against confusing between the applicable laws of the two torts, or merging them. This warning was not heeded by some governments, with their legislatures coming up with ill-defined and vague definitions to describe what is considered as nuisance. Given the ambiguous and incorrect definitions, it does not come as a surprise that courts have imposed liability on a wide range of circumstances. They range from activities considered to violate the peace, morals and comfort of the public, to environmental harms. Everything concerning nuisance appears to be contrary to modern perceptions of precision and certainty of both criminal law and civil law. The concept of nuisance is so vague understood that it has become a subject of intense debate for decades. In attempts to bring clarification on the matter, some legal experts are trying to re-define its boundaries and scope in a number of revolutionary ways. For instance, some attorneys are asking magistrates and judges to give them permission to apply nuisance against commercial organizations in accordance with liability laws (Witt, 2015).
Private nuisance particularly stands out when it comes to showing how abatement should be considered old fashioned. Laws to do with private nuisance have always been about balancing the rights of neighbors living next to one another. They are private law remedies with somewhat odd rules. Whatever the case, these laws have struggled with public interest for quite some time. This begs the question as to whether they are actually relevant, or are they able to carry the day for the defendant or claimant in case a private nuisance claim is filed (Rotenberg, Scott & Horwitz, 2015). The good tidings is that a number of high-profile cases have had to be determined by some of the top levels in judicial systems, attracting attention to the issue that is in need of a detailed clarification. This attention has underlined the importance of reconsidering the rules. Public interest is particularly relevant not just in deciding whether someone has a claim, but also what happens afterwards. For instance, in the case of loud noise; can a neighbor get an injunction to halt the noise, or should he or she be confined to just the damages.
A good example is a case in the United Kingdom titled Coventry v. Lawrence  UKSC 13, which was concluded in February 2014. Coventry has leased a stadium near where Lawrence lived. Planning permission had initially been granted to Coventrys successor, a racing company called Speedway back in 1975. Car racing started in 1984, although this event was not a permitted action under the planning permission of 1975. Coventry submitted to court that the racing event had become immune from guidelines stated in permission after operating for ten years. However, racing in the stadium generated noise that could be heard by neighboring residents, including Lawrence. A court of appeal ruled to overturn an injunction that had been awarded since the activities taking place in Coventrys land were not considered a nuisance. Lawrence appealed against this decision, with the Supreme Court restoring the injunction granted by the initial court as it found that there was nuisance in form of noise (Van Hout & Bingham, 2013).
The case rubbished a tendency by courts to apply existing principles mechanically in matters to do with nuisance, choosing to award injunctions as opposed to damages. Nowadays, it can be expected that fewer injunctions will be issued as a remedy for infringements involving nuisance and property rights. This will offer a break from the rather severe trend by courts of awarding injunctions even in instances when losses suffered are minor and the impact on the perpetrator is too severe (Baillergeau, 2014).
One way in which nuisance abatement can be considered as contemporary is by properly defining who is entirely responsible should an incidence occur. The individual who creates a nuisance is not the only one who may be held responsible in a court of law. An individual who owns property and who allows another person to create a nuisance or maintain it in the property should also be held legally responsible for the incidence. The same case applies to an individual who allows another person to perform an action that paves the way for a nuisance being created. A good example is a hallway owner who leases it out for a wedding reception. Such a person may be considered responsible if users of the hall are too rowdy and noisy. Also, individuals can be held responsible for creating a nuisance if they are aware, or are supposed to be aware, about a nuisance in their property but do not take any measures to stop it.
When it comes to dealing with nuisances in the modern world, there are measures that can be taken by both the members of the public and the courts. If a neighbor is creating something that can be considered a nuisance, the initial step is to talk to them and politely to stop the nuisance or remove it. If this does not work, an individual can opt to take legal action. All in all, taking someone to court can be a complicated and costly process; and should only be taken as a last resort. Should a court find someone guilty of creating a nuisance and the two parties fail to resolve the problem, there are several measures that a court can take. They include ordering the culprit to do away with or stop the nuisance, and ordering him or her to stops doing something that can cause a nuisance and damage property. If a nuisance results in damage to property, the court can order the culprit to compensate the individual by paying damages.
References Baillergeau, E. (2014). Governing public nuisance: Collaboration and conflict regarding the presence of homeless people in public spaces of Montreal. Critical Social Policy, 0261018314527716.
Frank, S. (2015). Examining Value, Process and Outcomes of Nuisance Inspection and Abatement Conducted by Local Health Departments. In 2015 APHA Annual Meeting & Expo (Oct. 31-Nov. 4, 2015). APHA.
Rotenberg, M., Scott, J., & Horwitz, J. (Eds.). (2015). Privacy in the Modern Age: The Search for Solutions. New Press, The.
Van Hout, M. C., & Bingham, T. (2013). Open drug scenes and drug-related public nuisance: a visual rapid assessment research study in Dublin, Ireland.Journal of ethnicity in substance abuse, 12(2), 154-178.
Witt, B. L. (2015). Self Help Nuisance Abatement in Baltimore City. Cities and the Environment (CATE), 8(2), 18.
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