What can I do about my neighbor's annoying new pool lights?

Light pollution can be a nuisance -- in legal terms.

Question

My neighbor and I have a good relationship, but recently she did something pretty annoying. She had her entire swimming pool refurbished and renovated her pool deck. The noise from that renovation was bad enough. But now that it’s finished, I see that she has ultra bright lights around her pool. They turn on automatically every evening, and stay on all night long. I think she wants to be able to throw evening parties on her deck. The lights shine not only onto my lawn, but also into my living room. It’s really a nuisance. What can I do? And if I can sue her, can I get emotional distress damages for all the annoyance?

Answer

Bright lights from a neighbor’s property can be just as annoying as loud music. They can disrupt your otherwise peaceful lawn and home as all hours of the day and night.

You would have a legal cause of action against your neighbor for what's known, in legal terms, as "nuisance." In that case, you could likely have a court direct her to remove or reconfigure the lights. (You might receive nominal damages, but it's doubtful that a court would award you "pain and suffering" or "emotional distress" damages for something like this).

However, before you run to a lawyer, see if you can work this situation out with your neighbor directly. Here, it sounds as if your neighbor has just completed renovations that she is very proud of; but perhaps she doesn’t comprehend the effect of those changes on your property.

You might approach her in a friendly manner and explain the situation from your perspective. It’s possible that she simply doesn’t realize that her pool lights activate every single night. An easy solution here might be for you to suggest a timer – that the lights will automatically turn off at 9 p.m., unless she is truly having a party. After all, she has no interest in wasting costly electricity.

Another solution, if she does want to keep some lighting on all night, is to suggest that she use different bulbs that aren’t quite so bright. Most home goods stores sell both timers and dimmer outdoor bulbs. You might offer to contribute to the cost of these items, since doing so would be a gesture of neighborliness and would be far less expensive than hiring an attorney to sue.

If you don't feel comfortable negotiating directly with your neighbor, consider suggesting mediation. (See Nolo's articles on "Mediating or Litigating a Neighbor Dispute.") A mediator can act as an intermediary and generate ideas for compromise.

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