As Halloween approaches, many minds turn to autumn themes—pumpkins, parties, and, of course, trick or treating with neighbors. But neighborly tricks aren’t exclusive to Halloween or children; in fact, some of the most complex neighborly hijinks are committed by adults and invite legal intervention rather than innocent mischief. Here’s our list of the top three legal shenanigans committed by neighbors.
One of the most common offenses committed by neighbors is trespass. Under New Hampshire law, trespass can occur when an individual enters or remains in any place when that individual knows he is not permitted to do so. See RSA 635:2, I. So how can neighbors commit trespass?
The most common way neighbors commit trespass is by crossing property boundaries between their property and their neighbor’s property when they are aware that such a crossing is without the consent of the neighboring property owner. Property owners are permitted under New Hampshire law to report trespass to police, and may have the option of pressing charges depending on circumstances.
2. Destruction of Property
Another common neighborly offense is destruction of property. Typically, destruction of property occurs when an individual purposely or recklessly damages the property of another without any reasonable basis or right to do so. In New Hampshire, destruction of property can be charged under various statutes, including criminal mischief under RSA 634:2.
Some ways neighbors can commit destruction of property is by intentionally destroying the physical property of a neighbor, such as damaging, cutting, or removing vegetation and trees on the land of the neighbor; removing or damaging boundary fences on the land of the neighbor; or committing any offense to property known to be on the land of the neighbor, including buildings and dwellings.
New Hampshire grants all property owners the right to peacefully use, develop, and enjoy their real estate. However, when a property owner’s use of their real estate interferes with the rights of surrounding property owners to use, develop, and enjoy their real estate, the behavior of the interfering neighbor can sometimes rise to the level of a legal nuisance. Under New Hampshire law, a private nuisance (as opposed to a public nuisance) that interferes with the rights of surrounding property owners can include unreasonable noise; unreasonable odor; or unreasonable use, among other actions.
Nuisance, like all legal wrongs, must be determined on a case-by-case basis, especially in states like New Hampshire where population densities vary greatly. For example, a property owner may be held liable under nuisance laws for shooting a gun in a backyard in a densely populated, downtown region of Manchester, but may not be held liable for the same action if on a large lot in Nottingham.
As we approach the season of mischief, make sure that your property rights are protected against these three top shenanigans. For more information, or if you are currently having problems with a mischievous neighbor, please contact Paul Alfano at firstname.lastname@example.org or (603) 226-1188.