You have a neighbor who is using his property, in a way that harms your property.

Perhaps your neighbor is causing loud, offensive noises, that disturb you. Or maybe your neighbor is allowing dust or smoke to contaminate your property. Or you’re a farmer, and your neighbor is allowing his animals to eat your crops. You may wonder: Can you do anything?

The answer is yes.

The Oklahoma Constitution, here says,

“No private property shall be taken or damaged for private use, with or without compensation, unless by consent of the owner.”

A number of Oklahoma court cases hold that, if a person uses his property in a way that “causes substantial injury to the property of another,” then, the person who causes the injury is violating this provision of the Oklahoma Constitution. To see examples of these cases, click here, here, and here.

So, in Oklahoma, you have a constitutional right to prevent someone from using his property in a way that harms your property.

Under the law, if a person causes harm to your property, the person’s actions (or inactions) which cause the harm, are termed a nuisance. If a nuisance affects an entire community or neighborhood, or a “considerable number of persons”, then the nuisance is termed a public nuisance. If a nuisance only affects a small number of persons, the nuisance is a private nuisance.

What you can do

Private nuisances

You have two remedies against a private nuisance:

1. You may remove or destroy the nuisance.

If you remove of destroy the nuisance, you must do so without committing a breach of the peace, or doing unnecessary injury. If you have to enter onto your neighbor’s land to remove or destroy the nuisance, you may do so, but, you must give your neighbor “reasonable notice” before you enter his land.

2. You may file a civil action in district court.

If you file a civil action in district court, you may ask the judge to

· order your neighbor to remove the nuisance, and

· order your neighbor to pay you damages for the nuisance caused. If you have already removed or destroyed the nuisance yourself, you can still go to court and recover money damages for the harm the nuisance caused before you removed the nuisance.

Public nuisances

You have three remedies against a public nuisance:

1. You may remove or destroy the nuisance.

You may remove or destroy the nuisance (as described above.) However, you may only remove or destroy a public nuisance, if the public nuisance is “specially injurious” to you.

2. You may file a civil action in district court.

You may file a civil action in district court against a public nuisance, only if the public nuisance is “specially injurious” to you.

3. You may report the nuisance to the government.

This is a remedy that is available against a public nuisance, but is not available against a private nuisance. An Oklahoma statute provides that “any public body or officer authorized thereto by law” may take action against a public nuisance. If the public nuisance is causing harm inside city limits, you may report the nuisance to the city, and the city may take action. Consult your city government and ask which official is in charge of abating nuisances; then report the nuisance to this official. You may want to examine your town’s ordinances, to see if your neighbor’s behavior constitutes a nuisance, and to see what procedures your town has in place for dealing with nuisances. Click here to see how to find your town’s ordinances. If the nuisance is causing harm outside of city limits, consult your county or state government, and ask which official is in charge of abating nuisances in the area. Then report the nuisance to this official.

Click here to see the Oklahoma statutes dealing with nuisances.