Benjamin Franklin once famously said: “Love thy neighbor—but don’t pull down your hedge.” More than two hundred years have passed, but Franklin’s words still ring true. Neighbors can be a blessing and a curse, and when they act as the latter, it is important to know the laws and legal remedies available to you in order to protect your property.
Louisiana Neighbor Laws
Louisiana Civil Code Article 667 states that a property owner can do whatever he wants to do on his own land, however, there is a caveat which states that he may not deprive his neighbor of the liberty of enjoying his own property. Louisiana Civil Code Article 668 seems to provide a little wiggle room by remarking that the occasional inconvenience to the neighbors is acceptable.
One of the most commonly asked questions that a Louisiana attorney receives is whether or not a property owner can cut down or trim his neighbor’s annoying crepe myrtle because of the falling flowers. The short answer is: it depends.
Louisiana Civil Code Article 687 provides that trees, bushes, and plants on a boundary are presumed to be common unless there be proof to the contrary and that an adjoining owner has the right to demand the removal of these plants if they interfere with the enjoyment of his estate. However, he must bear the costs. This article addresses a situation where the plant is literally split by the property line and is therefore somewhat rare. Louisiana Civil Code Article 688 holds that a landowner has the right to demand that the branches or roots that extend over onto his property be trimmed at the neighbor’s expense, however, the land owner does not have such a right if the roots or branches do not interfere with the enjoyment of his property. While it may seem that this article answers the age old question posed above, there are many factors to consider and hiring an attorney may become necessary.
Other Common Neighbor Disputes
- Nuisance- A nuisance is an interference with a person’s enjoyment and use of their land. Sometimes, a neighbor may interfere with your use and enjoyment by causing smells, sounds, light, or pollution which affects your property. In certain situations, it is possible to obtain a court order to protect your rights.
- Disagreement over Easements or Servitudes- An easement is a right to use another person’s land for a specific purpose, while a servitude is an agreement between two or more parties that imposes a limit on one property owner’s rights and creates an advantage for the dominant property’s owner. Disputes often arise as these servitudes “run with the land” and successors may not agree with their predecessor’s decisions.
- Boundary Disputes- This type of dispute often involves one neighbor building a fence on another’s property. It is important to know where your property lines are due to the concept of acquisitive prescription, under which a neighbor can acquire title to property which he otherwise would not own.