I can’t find a state law about my neighbor problem, but there must be a remedy. What can I do?

If there isn’t a statute that covers your problem, don’t give up. There may be local laws (called ordinances), a restrictive neighborhood covenant, or judicial rulings (common law) that may help resolve your particular issue.  

One of the first places to start looking for local laws is on your county’s website. Many of West Virginia’s counties maintain a website using the following format: http://www.countywv.org. For example, if you are searching ordinances for Jefferson County, you would use the address http://www.jeffersoncountywv.org. If your county does not have a website, you can also access the information at the county law library or most public libraries, or by asking at your local representatives’ offices. 

If your neighborhood has an association governed by a particular set of rules, called Covenants, Conditions, & Restrictions, you may be able to get help from your homeowner’s association. Often these rules are much stricter than the local laws and may help with a neighbor problem. If you live in a community governed by a restrictive covenant and your neighbor is in violation of the covenant, you can complain to the homeowner’s association through the specified process (found in the covenant). Usually the association will then intervene and demand the neighbor correct the violation or be penalized.  

If there are no written rules that address your situation, you may look to the common law for help. Common law is law that has been created by judges over centuries through their court decisions. To find out whether a problem like yours has been ruled on, you will have to research the case law. This involves reading the actual cases that have interpreted related statutes or addressed the problem. For this type of research, you will probably have to begin at a law library.  

For more information, see: Jordan, Cora, Neighbor Law: Fences, Trees, Boundaries & Noise, Chapter 17 (4th ed. 2002); Warda, Mark, Neighbor vs. Neighbor, 9-21 (2nd ed. 1999).