Coming to the Nuisance

by | Mar 6, 2022

Coming to the nuisance essentially means “first in time, first in rights.”

Georgia lawmakers are considering a bill that would protect farmers from nuisance lawsuits after a farm has been operating for a year. Such a bill would be unnecessary if “coming to the nuisance” was understood and applied properly.

Coming to the nuisance essentially means “first in time, first in rights.” A property owner has a right to continue using his property as he has in the past, even if newcomers find his use objectionable. For example, if a farm generates obnoxious odors, anyone moving nearby is coming to the nuisance.

The bill’s sponsor said that it will “give farmers some protection to farm their land as they’ve always done it when you have some neighbors who might move in and have a little different opinion.” If someone moves next to a farm, there is no moral justification for filing a nuisance claim.

Some say that the issue is a matter of whose rights will be protected. But the rights of individuals do not conflict. If someone builds a new home next to a pig farm, the nuisance was present when the home was built. The homeowner has no legitimate claim. However, if the pig farm was established after the home, then a valid claim exists.

Owners have the right to the peaceful enjoyment of their property. They have a right to use their property in any manner they choose, so long as they respect the freedom of others to do the same. Many land uses, such as a pig farm, do not necessarily interfere with others’ use of property. Nuisance recognizes the contextual nature of such interference.

One legislator explained that the bill is an attempt to “craft a balance of the various interests involved.” This implies a conflict between property owners. But no such conflict exists if property rights are properly understood and applied. Coming to the nuisance is a crucial part of that.

Brian Phillips is the founder of the Texas Institute for Property Rights. Brian has been defending property rights for nearly thirty years. He played a key role in defeating zoning in Houston, Texas, and in Hobbs, New Mexico. He is the author of three books: Individual Rights and Government Wrongs, The Innovator Versus the Collective, and Principles and Property Rights. Visit his website at texasipr.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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