Private Nuisance - California Civil Code 3481

Posted by Raoul Severo | Dec 15, 2020 | 0 Comments

It is probably safe to assume that we are more familiar with public nuisance cases than we are of private nuisance. That is because public nuisance impacts a considerable number of persons; hence, it is more commonly known. However, what happens if only one person becomes affected by a nuisance? Can he/she still complain even if no other person is experiencing what he/she is going through?

The answer is a simple yes. Under California law, a situation wherein a nuisance interferes with the right and comfort of a specific person is called a private nuisance. This is as opposed to a public nuisance where a nuisance impacts a community, neighborhood, or a considerable number of people. In other words, every nuisance not included in the legal definition of a public nuisance in California law is a private nuisance, as stated in California Civil Code 3481.

Now, when can we consider an act or behavior as a nuisance? According to California Civil Code, a nuisance can be:

  • Anything that is offensive or unpleasant to the senses (i.e., loud music, foul odor, glaring lights, etc.);
  • Obstruction to the free use of property;
  • Health hazards;
  • Anything that makes a lake, river, stream, canal, basin, or park, street, or highway inaccessible in an unlawful manner; and
  • The illegal sale of controlled substances.

If you can manage to convince the person or neighbor to stop performing any of the actions above, no legal proceedings are necessary. However, if they continue to deny your requests to the point where their behaviors start negatively impacting your health and well-being, the state law provides a legal claim where you can file a private nuisance claim against a problematic neighbor. This can prevent a nuisance activity from re-occurring in the future. Plus, you may even be compensated for the damages caused by the nuisance. That is, of course, if your party can prove the following:

  • You own, lease, occupy, or control the land/property;
  • The defendant's actions or negligence caused the loss of enjoyment of life or property, health hazards, and other inconveniences to you;
  • You did not consent to the defendant's obstructive behavior;
  • That any ordinary human being would have reacted the same way as you;
  • You were harmed (physically, mentally, or emotionally); and
  • The defendant's conduct was unreasonable.


Common examples of a private nuisance lawsuit include:

  • Due to the global pandemic, the 41-year-old high school teacher is forced to teach her class online. She lives next door to a young couple. At first, she encountered no problems and was actually enjoying her time at home. However, her neighbors then started to blast loud rock music from their house every single day. She tried to ignore it, but it has gotten to the point where the music would overpower her voice when she is talking to her students. She could no longer sleep properly and her mental health was deteriorating.
  • You just moved into a new home with your pet dogs. To your surprise, you discovered that there is a large population of stray dogs around your area. You didn't want them to infect your pets with lice and other diseases, so you decided to put up a fence around your street to prevent any stray dog from coming near your home. Unfortunately, this action also made the street inaccessible to your only neighbor. If he wanted to leave the premises, he would still have to walk extra steps to reach the exit of your fence. 
  • A neighbor right next to you just opened his very own vulcanizing shop without giving prior notice. The lack of communication wasn't a problem and instead, you even supported his business. That is until he started burning damaged tires in his backyard, causing an offensive smell to linger around your own property.

Benefits in a Private Nuisance Lawsuit

If you have been directly affected by a private nuisance, you can seek damages for the following:

  • Loss of value;
  • Discomfort, annoyance, and emotional distress; and/or
  • Injunctive relief.

On top of that, you can even file a personal injury lawsuit if you were harmed by the nuisance. The defendant may compensate you for the following:

  • Hospital bills;
  • Loss of wages; and/or
  • Pain and suffering.

Talk to a Lawyer Today

While a private nuisance lawsuit is not a criminal case, it is still wise to talk to a criminal defense attorney when you face one. Why? Well, that is because a private nuisance can also be considered a public nuisance, which is a criminal offense. Therefore, the expertise and guidance of criminal defense lawyers will significantly help you improve the odds of your charge. Reach out to us now for a consultation.

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