Former “That 70’s Show” star and Lindsay Lohan hearthrob Wilmer Valderrama has been sued for being a bad neighbor. Apparently, Valderrama has been throwing “wild parties” at his home, refusing to take his neighbor’s noise complaints seriously.
Valderrama’s legal woes raise a good point – what can you do when you get stuck with a bad neighbor?
Rentals and Condos. It is generally easier dealing with a bad neighbor when living in apartment communities, condos, or townhouse properties. Usually, the property management sets forth rules requiring quiet hours between certain times, like 10 PM – 6 PM, and prohibiting music or noise to be heard from outside of the tenant’s unit. Tenants are obligated to abide by rules and regulations when they move in, and violations are generally assessed as fines against the property owner.
Homes and Homeowners. But when living next door to a noisy homeowner, there are fewer options. Noise violations can be reported to local non-emergency law enforcement authorities, or a private security company, if one is hired by a homeowner’s association or community. However, the only real legal option is to bring a lawsuit for nuisance, similar to the one that was brought against Valderrama. Nuisance lawsuits essentially make a claim that a propertyowner engages in such offensive activity on the property that it prevents the complaining neighbor from quiet enjoyment of their own property
Nuisance lawsuits are not easy to prove, and damages usually are not recoverable — meaning that the relief given to the complaining party is often an injunction, which is basically a permanent restraining order barring the noisy neighbor from making more noise. But, if the noisy neighbor disregards the injunction order, the affected neighbors usually have to go back to court and ask that the court hold contempt proceedings or issue sanctions for the noisy neighbor’s disobedience of court order. It can all be very expensive.
Alternative non-legal ways of handling noisy neighbors is attempting to talk to them, or making requests in writing. But these can lead to friction and confrontation, especially if there are age, lifestyle, or other disparities between the neighbors. For Valderrama’s neighbor, talking did not work, neither did writing letters. Lawsuits are often the last resort, but sometimes they may be the only way to get uncoooperative neighbors to pay attention.