How To Sue Your Neighbor!

It may sound surprising, but legal proceedings are not out of the question between neighbors on Anna Maria Island. Maybe it’s precisely because we expect life to be perfect and peaceful here that we become irritated when somebody intrudes on our own personal concept of what paradise is supposed to be. So we may be more likely to get on the phone and call a lawyer to help us defend our idealized vision of the good life. If we lived in a city, we might be more likely to tolerate nuisance, because it would be more expected. Our dream is not being ruined.

Spite FenceDisputes arise over many of the symbols of the good life. One neighbor might be annoyed with another for putting in a swimming pool, creating added noise and activity just feet away from what used to be a serenely quiet back yard. There may be a discussion but it’s not likely that a discussion will prevent somebody who wants to put in a pool from doing so. Anyway, it’s their right as long as they follow local ordinances. Angry exchanges across the fence may follow. And the neighbor dismayed by the changes in the neighbor’s yard might go so far as to call a lawyer to see if there is any legal recourse.

Another source of neighborly discord can be music. Loud Jimmy Buffet music may be some people’s idea of paradise found, but for other Floridians, it is a matter of “been there, done that, got bored.” Personally, I resent anybody who thinks their choice of music is what the neighborhood wants to listen to. I feel the law needs to protect our right to silence. We can listen to what we want through headphones these days without interfering with the rights of others.

Lawsuits on the island may relate to docks, and this is not surprising. The island has developed relatively slowly over time, and for many years it worked fine to be casual about who owned the waterfront and where you tied your boat. But with increased development, every square foot is now accounted for. One person’s boat might crowd another’s. Especially where the canals end and corners must be shared, the law often is needed to keep people on good terms.

Even the lush tropical vegetation of Anna Maria Island can be the center of neighbors’ conflicts. It’s easy not to think ahead when planting something like a ficus tree or bamboo, which, when mature, may intrude significantly into the neighbor’s property, even damaging a fence or the house. Obviously the time to address such a problem is well before the damage is done. But if the problem already has gotten out of hand and the neighbor does not cooperate, it might be necessary to consider calling a lawyer. The costs of eliminating the problem tree and repairing the damage could be significant.

One might assume there are legal issues surrounding things such as blocking of views or sunlight by growing large trees on the property line, but the local codes vary, and on Anna Maria Island , these acts are not necessarily against the law. There are laws, however, against creating nuisance intentionally. When things deteriorate to the point that one neighbor intentionally grows a high wall of vegetation just out of spite, there may be legal recourse.

Considering how frustrating it is to think you have moved to paradise, only to have it destroyed by an inconsiderate neighbor, perhaps the best advice to anyone moving to a place like Anna Maria Island is to make an effort to meet the neighbors before buying a property. And once the deal is done, consider having a little party to get off to a good start toward neighborhood harmony. But, please, keep the music down!

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