Posted on March 15, 2019 in Civil Litigation
Even neighbors on the best of terms can run into problems when it comes to property improvements and border issues. Trees, fences, and noise are all potential issues that may need legal clarification to reach an agreement suitable to all parties involved.
In Maryland, there is no specific state ruling that deals with fences. Disputes over fences fall under local rules and city ordinances. Often, the rules have to do with zoning, such as those for properties in a designated historic district. The state follows common law practices regarding fences. This means that unless otherwise specifically stated, a fence running along a boundary line is owned in common by both property owners using the fence.
Fences Built Out of Spite
In cases where a fence has been erected out of malice or spite, nuisance law principles may apply. Other regulations, such as zoning codes, local law, or homeowner’s association rules may also be pertinent. Damages will be considered by balancing the value of the fence to its owner against the negative effect of the structure on the aggrieved neighbor.
Trees on Property Borders
Trees planted on property borders can encroach on neighboring properties in many ways. Branches can hang over or fall off and roots can crawl under borders. Maryland law says that ownership of a tree is determined by where the trunk stands. If the tree stands directly on the borderline, both parties must agree to its removal. A single party may not make the decision to remove it. The owner of a tree is responsible for its care and maintenance. This means the tree must not cause damage to another person’s property. Any tree branches or roots that extend into a neighboring property may be trimmed back to the property line by that neighbor. Maryland law provides for punishment for those who damage or kill trees on purpose. Anyone who intentionally damages a tree may be liable for up to three times the amount of damages.
Excessive noise or other behavior considered a disturbance to neighbors falls under nuisance law. In Maryland, the claimant in a private nuisance claim must demonstrate that the offensive conduct was substantial enough to cause real and unreasonable damage to their ability to enjoy and use their property.
Parking issues can drive a wedge between neighbors, especially in cases where there is a shared driveway. A shared driveway should have a written agreement about maintenance and parking, otherwise disagreements will be difficult to sort out.
Street parking is governed by local laws and is usually enforced by local municipal authorities. Property owners have the right to tow away cars parked on their private property, however, they must pay any charges from the towing company. Large vehicles, such as RVs and broken or unsightly cars that do not fall under zoning codes or HOA rules, are difficult to have removed if the owner refuses.