Loud lawn mowers or fallen fruit are only two of many occasions for a neighbor dispute. Lawyer Stefan Kining knows what to do in such cases.
A gasoline lawnmower can cause a lot of noise – and make for a tangible neighbor dispute
A neighbor dispute, which revolves around the garden, unfortunately occurs again and again. There are many causes, ranging from noise pollution to trees on the property line. Attorney Stefan Kining answers the most important questions and gives tips on how best to proceed in a neighbor dispute.
Neighbor dispute: Noise pollution in the garden
Summer is the time of garden parties. How should you react if there is a party on the property next door until late at night??
From 10 p.m., the noise level of private parties may no longer disturb the night’s rest of the residents. In the case of violations, however, you should keep a cool head and, if possible, only seek a personal discussion the next day – in private and without the influence of alcohol, it is usually easier to reach an amicable agreement.
The noise of gasoline lawn mowers and other power equipment also often causes trouble in the neighborhood. Which legal regulations must be observed here?
In addition to the legally regulated Sunday and holiday rest and regionally specified rest periods, you should pay particular attention to the so-called machine noise ordinance. In pure, general and special residential areas, small residential areas as well as special areas, which serve the recovery (for example cure and hospital areas), motor lawn mowers may not be operated on Sundays and holidays at all and on weekdays only in the time from 7 to 20 o’clock. For brush cutters, lawn trimmers and leaf blowers, even more restricted operating times of 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. apply.
Neighbor dispute: Trees on the garden boundary
Trees on the property line are among the most frequent causes of disputes between neighbors
Which disputes around the neighbor right end then most frequently before court?
Often because of trees and/or not kept border distances one litigates. Although there are relatively clear guidelines in most federal states. In some (for example, Baden-Wurttemberg), however, different distances apply depending on the growth of the woody plants. In case of dispute, the neighbor must provide information about which tree he planted (botanical name). In the end, a court-appointed expert then classifies the tree. Another problem is the statute of limitations: if a tree stands too close to the boundary for more than five years (six years in North Rhine-Westphalia), the neighbor has to accept it. One can argue however admirably about it, when exactly the tree was planted. What’s more, in some states, hedge trimming is expressly permitted even after the statute of limitations has expired on the right of removal. Information about the local distance regulations can be obtained from the responsible city or municipal administration.
If the tree on the garden border is an apple tree: Who actually owns the fruit hanging on the other side of the border??
This case is clearly regulated by law: All fruit hanging over the neighboring property belongs to the tree owner and may not be harvested without prior agreement or notice. Only when the apple from the neighbor’s tree lies as fallen fruit on one’s own lawn may one pick it up and use it.
And what happens if both don’t want the apples at all, so they fall to the ground and rot on both sides of the border?
If a dispute arises in this case, it must again be clarified whether the fallen fruit really does significantly impair the use of the neighboring property. For example, in one extreme case, the owner of a cider pear was ordered to pay the cost of disposing of it on the neighbor’s property. But the tree was really tremendously productive and the rotting fruit also led to a plague of wasps.
You are allowed to collect and process fallen fruit in your garden
Neighbor dispute: This is what the lawyer recommends
What is the usual procedure in neighborhood law if the disputants cannot reach an agreement??
In many federal states there is a so-called obligatory arbitration procedure. Before you can go to court against your neighbor, you have to go through mediation with a notary, arbitrator, lawyer or justice of the peace, depending on your state. The written certificate that the mediation has failed must be submitted to the court with the statement of claim.
Does traditional legal expenses insurance actually pay the costs if you’re unsuccessful in suing your neighbor??
This depends of course very much on the insurance company and above all on the respective contract. If you are planning to sue your neighbor, you should inform your insurance company beforehand. Important: Insurance companies generally do not pay for old cases. Therefore, it is of no use at all to take out insurance because of a neighborhood dispute that has been simmering for years.
How would you react as a lawyer if you had problems with your neighbor?
I would try to solve the problem in a personal conversation. Disputes often arise because both sides do not know exactly what is allowed and what is not. If the neighbor does not agree, I would ask him in writing and with an appropriate deadline to cease the disturbance. In this letter I would already announce that with fruitless deadline expiration judicial assistance is taken up. Only after that I would think about further steps. That lawyers like to sue in their own cause, I cannot confirm for myself and most of my professional colleagues. A lawsuit costs time, money and nerves and often does not justify the effort. Besides, fortunately I have very nice neighbors.