A nuisance is a condition or situation, such as a loud noise or foul odor, that interferes with the use or enjoyment of property. Courts balance the utility of the act that is causing the problem against the harm done to neighboring property owners. For example, restrictions exist on when manufacturing plants may operate to not interfere with sleeping patterns of neighbors.
Nuisance can be both intentional and unintentional, as well as public or private. A public nuisance is an unreasonable interference with a right common to the general public, such as a condition dangerous to the public’s health or a restriction on the public’s access to public property. Many jurisdictions also include conduct that is offensive to the community’s moral standard to regulate the placement of adult industries in residential neighborhoods. Public nuisance claims often include manufacturing noises, smoke and smells. A private nuisance is a condition that interferes with a person’s enjoyment of their property that does not involve a trespass. For example, cigarette smoke entering a neighbor’s house from a smoker on an adjacent property is a private nuisance.
Figure 22.4 Public Nuisance Street Sign
Figure 22.5 Private Nuisance Example
Most states have passed laws that allow local governments to regulate zoning. Zoning ordinances are laws passed by counties, cities, and municipalities that regulate land development. These ordinances determine whether commercial or residential buildings can be built in an area, how tall buildings may be, and how much green space must be maintained. They also apply to existing buildings and regulate whether a building may be converted from residential property to commercial, as well as what type of commercial property it may be. For example, many zoning ordinances regulate the types of businesses that may be located next to schools and hospitals.
Eminent domain is the power of the government to take private property for public use. A governmental entity may need to build or expand highways, public transport systems, or public housing. To address the public’s need, the government can take private property and use it for the good of the community. All levels of government–federal, state, and local–have the power of eminent domain. The Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution requires that any owners of private property taken for public use must be given “just compensation.” Just compensation means fair market value for the land.