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How to deal with problem neighbours?

Do you have constant disputes with your neighbours during the year, for example about noise or smell from their property? Then it is quite likely that your conflicts will intensify in the summer. In fact, disputes about so-called ‘immissions’ are more frequent in summer, as both you and your neighbours are likely to have their windows open all day. What are your defence options?

mladá žena nemůže usnout, nesnesitelní sousedi
8 minutes of reading

Chapters of the article

What are immissions and what are their limits?

The single word immission can be used to describe anything that emanates from your neighbour’s property and in some way harasses you in the exercise of your property rights. This can include, for example, excessive noise, dust, smoke, odours, gas, light, waste or vibrations. Similarly, we also include animal trespass on your property.

TheCivil Code (CCC) collectively regulates these phenomena as restrictions on the right of ownership. However, not all encroachments are universally prohibited and a distinction must be made between direct and indirect encroachments.

Do you have problems with your neighbours and talking is not enough?

Send them a pre-suit notice. This serves mainly as a last warning before you sue, without having to pay court fees and risk paying the other party’s litigation costs as a last resort.

Direct and indirect emissions

Direct immissions are immissions that are deliberately introduced onto our property or into our dwelling by a neighbour. For example, a neighbour would burn plastic bottles directly under our window in order to poison our air with dangerous fumes. Such behaviour is prohibited without further ado. The only exception to this is if the neighbour has a legal reason for the action causing the immission. Such a reason could theoretically be an easement, for example, where he or she has a right of way across our property where he or she and his or her animals walk.

Indirect immissions arise unintentionally, spontaneously and are to some extent permitted by the NZO. We do not control the direction of the wind just when we are barbecuing, nor are we expected to tape our children’s mouths shut when they are playing in the garden. A certain amount of these immissions is simply expected in everyday neighbourhood life. However, according to the Civil Code, it must not be a level that is disproportionate to local circumstances or that restricts the normal use of the neighbour’s land.

Tip: Are you having problems with mould on the walls of your house, and do you know that your neighbour’s guttering is causing it and discharging water directly onto your property? This is also a case of immission. Read more in our article – Flooding of the property or flooding of the flat by a neighbour.

However, it is not a measure that does not suit the neighbour at the moment. It could be that your neighbour suffers from a severe migraine, where she can’t tolerate any sound but your children are in the pool, or a pregnant neighbour reacts badly to any smells and the smell of grilled fish you are preparing for dinner drives her crazy. In these cases, it may be possible to come to an agreement in good faith, but it is quite likely that the people concerned will have to put up with such behaviour. There is nothing out of the ordinary that can bother anyone at the moment.

It should be stressed that the assessment of what is still normal and what is no longer normal is not universal, but must be based on the customs of the locality. While the mooing and smell of cattle in the countryside may not surprise us, if you imagine it in your neighbours’ block of flats, you would probably be unpleasantly surprised. In France, they even value their rural sounds and smells so much that they have passed a special law to protect them, allowing roosters to crow and ducks to quack.

If we are still using the term neighbour, it is primarily because it is the nearest neighbours who are most affected by unreasonable immissions. However, in assessing this phenomenon, it is not necessary for the two people in question to live in the same apartment building or to look over the fence of the property. You can deal with a factory that is a kilometre away from your house and which has an unbearable smell.

Tip: We have described how to deal with a neighbour building a fence that is too high and obstructs our view in one of our articles.

Defence against immissions

Now that we’ve got an overview of what immissions mean, let’s look at how to defend against them. There are three basic areas to consider:

  • talking to your neighbour
  • complaining
  • taking legal action.

Arranging with a neighbour

This is of course the simplest possible solution, but sometimes only in theory. Neighbourly relations are sometimes affected by years of conflicts that are difficult to overcome. In any case, if you are really concerned about the final effect, it is advisable to think in advance about what would be the ideal situation for you and what would be a possible compromise. Alternatively, you can invite an impartial, non-conflicted person as a mediator (this could be a committee member in the house or an acquaintance in the municipality, etc.). Rather, try to keep the communication factual, non-aggressive and directed towards a concrete proposed solution.

Tip: You may also find the house rules helpful in making arrangements. Find out more about what the house rules cover and what to do if they are broken in our next article.

Complaint to the competent authority

If the agreement doesn’t work or you don’t feel like it, consider how serious the problem is and choose a complaint or legal action accordingly. If you are not sure what the most effective solution is, it is worth consulting a lawyer.

Obviously, if it’s one o’clock in the morning and there’s been an apartment rock concert going on in the apartment next door for three hours, you can’t take advice, but you need to save your sleep immediately. In the event of a disturbance of the night, you can call the police, who should restore order and impose a block fine of up to CZK 10 000 on the neighbour. If it is more likely to be a persistent or repeated activity, then consider writing to one of the relevant authorities to complain about the neighbour. This may include, for example, the municipal authority, the building authority or the regional health station.

The building authority could deal with situations where the person in question is generating noise through their activities, for which they need a planning permission, which they do not have. The regional hygiene station, on the other hand, deals with cases where the noise level exceeds the hygiene limits. They will verify this with appropriate measurements.

The municipal authorities are responsible for conducting offence proceedings.

How to write a complaint?

It is not necessary to use an official template for a complaint, but certain elements should not be missing.
The complaint should include the date, the address, the subject of the complaint, the actual text of the complaint and the signature. Try to describe the situation as accurately as possible, but there is no need to go into great detail.

Filing a lawsuit

The actual lawsuit can be preceded by a pre-suit notice, which often serves its purpose much better. Your neighbour will see that things are really getting tough (especially if you have a lawyer on your side) and you can get your way without investing time and money in court proceedings.

You can file a lawsuit under the condition that the immissions are illegal. Immissions lawsuits are not a rarity, and you certainly won’t look ridiculous with a lawsuit filed. Czech courts deal with these types of lawsuits quite frequently. However, to have a chance of success and to accurately portray the illegality of your neighbour’s actions, it is worth discussing the matter with an attorney.

It will be up to you to prove that the immissions are not proportionate to the local conditions and substantially restrict your normal use of your land. A skilled lawyer will know what arguments to use and what evidence to put to the court. Last but not least, you must also articulate not only that you are bothered by your neighbour’s behaviour, but what exactly you are asking him to do or not to do. You can demand that your neighbour refrain from a particular nuisance activity that is causing the immission or that he or she remove the condition that is causing the immission. You can also sue your neighbour if he or she has not yet caused anything, but the danger is imminent (for example, he or she is not supposed to repair a house whose wall is collapsing onto your house). For these cases, you will use a nuisance action.

Anyone who, in the use of their land, causes a nuisance to their neighbours beyond that allowed by law can be a defendant. Therefore, you can sue not only the owner of the land, but also the tenant of the land, house, or apartment whose actions cause the immission.

If your claim is upheld by the court, the court’s decision can then be enforced by means of fines, which can be imposed repeatedly up to CZK 100,000 each.
The court will assess the rights of both persons in the action, i.e. the right of your neighbour to use his flat and land as he wishes versus the protection of your property against the intrusion of immissions.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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