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What to Do When Holiday Lawn Decorations Become a Legal Nuisance

"Night view of a Luxury Home with Christmas Lights in Brooklyn, New York, USA."
By Kellie Pantekoek, Esq. on December 05, 2019 12:00 PM

We've all driven by and gawked at the houses that go all-out with decorations for the holiday season. Properties with lights galore, blaring Christmas music, and thematic displays can be found in just about every town. It's all in the holiday spirit... right?

You don't have to be a Grinch to get annoyed at bright, loud, and flashy holiday lawn decorations, especially if you live right next door. But is there anything you can do to stop your neighbor's holiday cheer? Or at least get them to take it down a couple notches?​

Legally speaking, you have a few options when all you want for Christmas is for your neighbor's power to go out.

Local Ordinances, Regulations, or CC&Rs

First, you can look at the local ordinances and regulations in your city and county. Cities and counties typically have ordinances controlling lights, noise, traffic, and parking — all of which can be associated with excessive holiday displays. You'd be surprised how many areas even have regulations that deal with holiday displays, specifically.

Also, depending on what type of neighborhood you live in, check to see if there are Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) that apply. CC&Rs are rules set by a developer or homeowners association that govern residences or condos.

If your area or neighborhood regulates holiday lights and displays and your neighbor is not in compliance, consider discussing it with your neighbor to make sure they are aware. Another option is to file a complaint with the city or county's code enforcement office, or your homeowner's association.

Filing a Private Nuisance Claim

If there aren't any ordinances or CC&Rs that apply, you can explore filing a nuisance claim in civil court. There are two types of legal nuisance claims: private and public. Private nuisance refers to the interference of a property owner's right to use and enjoy their property. Public nuisance refers to a threat on a community's health, safety, or overall welfare.

Every year, there are nuisance claims filed because of over-the-top holiday displays, and few have been successful because it's a difficult legal claim to make. Generally, the courts want to allow people to enjoy — and decorate — their properties how they choose as long as it's compliant with local law.

In other words, your claim would have to be based on more than just you being annoyed or inconvenienced for the courts to step in with an injunction. Additionally, by the time you get your day in court the holiday season will be long gone and so will the Christmas lights (one would hope).

With that said, a real estate lawyer can help you explore your options for restoring your holiday spirit.

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