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Backyard Boundary Disputes?
By John Lione, Terry Belt, and Susan Littleton
Dear Readers: Well… It’s summertime. Let’s have a little fun! Each week this summer, The Fowler Law Firm will send you an Electronic Alert like this one, designed to do two equally important things: (1) Inform you about a challenge many others like you regularly ask that costs them money or forfeits an opportunity; and (2) Showcase the skills and resources of The Fowler Law Firm PC in our award-winning Practice Sections.
Reply to this Electronic Alert to ask a question or make a comment in strictest confidence. Have a great Summer of 2016!
You have a beautiful home up in the hilly, and previously quiet, part of your city. Your home, your yard, and your neighbors’ yards all face toward a quiet cul-de-sac; each home has a backyard that abuts a large strip of undeveloped land with a creek. All the rain has brought out birds, the wildflowers and……the neighbors who are now engaging in a series of misdeeds including:
- Neighbor Burns is roasting meat, playing loud music, and distributing beverages every evening in a tent he has erected on the undeveloped land. He and his numerous guests, portable meat smoker, and beer keg occupy the tract until the early hours of the morning, generating a lot of smoke and noise.
- Neighbor King is one of Neighbor Burns’ guests. He wants everyone to have access to these events so he is using his small tractor to improve the dirt road that leads up to the tract. After the guests have beverages, some of them, including the children, drive the tractor up and down the dirt road.
- Neighbor No is simply appalled and has started organizing a neighborhood revolt, claiming the meat smoker violates your city’s new Smoke Ordinance, the beverages violate Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission rules, and that the children drinking these beverages and driving the tractor should be taken from their parents under a theory of child abuse and neglect. You find her paper protests littering the cul-de-sac most mornings, having flown off of the windshields, doors, and windows of various neighborhood property where she has placed them.
All you ever wanted was peace and quiet. What can you do?
- Austin Only– Ask City of Austin Mayor Adler’s team if you can get some of that new Austin Music & Creativity Ecosystem Omnibus Resolution money and promote this enchanting new musical venue;
- Start attending the parties; at least you can have some benefit while you are experiencing this much pain;
- List your property for sale – It’s a great time to sell anything residential, you know! – but don’t disclose these events to anyone including your realtor or any prospective buyers;
- Access your city ordinances and state laws on nuisance, alcohol distribution, noise, and child neglect:
- File a complaint with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality; your protesting neighbor must be violating some environmental ordinance by letting all that paper loose. See: http://www.tceq.state.tx.us/
The Correct Answer Is……Proceed with care. In communities all over Texas where rapid growth is now the norm and previously unused greenbelts have become hotspots for weekend parties, some limited uses are permitted.
Start by confirming in which jurisdictions your property is located. Note that the greenbelt in dispute may not fall under the same jurisdictions.
Review your local ordinances. City and county rules differ dramatically from one city or county to the next insofar as possession of alcohol, noise or sound ordinances, occupancy, and discharge of firearms. The policy of local law enforcement regarding compliance also varies depending on the area.
Meanwhile, if you have decided you just want to move away, seek advice from a professional who has serious experience with these legal issues regarding what you must disclose to any prospective buyer. If you do not disclose what state law requires you to before you sell, you may find you have become the insurer of these backyard adventures.
In your every summertime adventure, we wish you the very best!
The Fowler Law Firm Education Law Section is nationally ranked as a US News and World Reports Best Law Firm in the United States – Education Law- Tier 1 Designee, as well as Tier 1 in Immigration Law. The firm also recently received the 2016 award for 10 Best Law Firms in Client Satisfaction from the American Institute of Family Law Attorneys. For more information about our firm and our community outreach please contact us at www.thefowlerlawfirm.com, or at (512) 441-1411.
Receipt of this Electronic Alert or printer-friendly version does not establish or constitute an attorney-client relationship. This information is not intended as a substitute for careful review by legal counsel of your own choosing. As with any legal issue, please consult your attorney with questions.