Forget ‘Up’, Keeping IN With the Neighbors

In my neighborhood there is a home that appears to by occupied by at least a couple of young women.  By ‘young’, a typical crabbier old guy might classify them as ‘those stinking kids that need to get a real job and grow up’.  I’m not there yet.  But when I walked past and realized they had a live band playing in the back yard the other night, I thought, “Oh boy, this could get interesting.”

Just after 9:00 PM I took the dog out and realized, even with a direct line of sight to the house, I could no longer hear the band playing.  Just a break between sets?  No, the music never came back.  They had actually shut the band down by 9:00, apparently on their own.

While it wasn’t loud enough to cause me any heartburn, I had to appreciate their self-control and courtesy.  I’m sure there are neighbors in the area that would NOT have been ok with the music going late into the night.  You know…. those ‘crabby old guys’.

While a lot of people are good at being good neighbors, others know the limits and push it right up to the limit just because they can (we have one of those somewhat near to us as well).  Then are those that just don’t think about it because it’s not a big deal to them.  The fact is that Sioux Falls, and most organized communities and counties, have public health an nuisance laws, also referred to as ‘Good Neighbor Laws’, that serve to protect the rights and health of all, not just the owners of a specific property.

I’ve done some research on Sioux Falls’ Good Neighbor Laws and have summed them up here.  Not in Sioux Falls?  I’m sure your community has very similar laws.  Just a bit of research or even a phone call should get your questions answered.

So, without further ado, here are some of the Good Neighbor Laws that Sioux Falls has established to help us just get along.

Lawn Mowing – Regardless of what grows there, lawns are to beraking kept under eight inches long or less.  Should a complaint be filed, you will get a letter of warning giving you 7 days to take care of it or a contractor is hired to deal with it.  I assure you they will not give any discounted price at that point.  Oh yeah, a fine will be included in the bill for the lawn care.  Subsequent complaints will not receive any letter of warning.  They will just show up to take care of it for you….at your cost.

Weed Control – You know the yard.  Every spring it is a field of gold.  Not precious metal or even nice flowers.  It is the dandelion patch.  As it turns out, dandelions are not considered a noxious weed here, so there is no complaint process for neighbors making neighbors deal with them.  However, other weeds will be dealt with.  These can be found on the city website.  While the pretty flowers may not bother you, flowers turn into seeds and end up places other than your yard.  This is why different government agencies regulate some weed control.

Noise – This is a tougher one in Sioux Falls as they recognize different areas, different sources of sound, and even differentiate between ‘normal’ and ‘impulsive’ sounds.  The magic times for residential seem to be 6:00 AM and 10:30 PM, although that again varies by type and source.  IN SHORT, remember that sound travels.  While you may be ready to party, another family may have a young child trying to sleep, or they need to be at work by 5:00 AM the next morning.  Push that boundary and they may decide to run chainsaw at 6:00 AM some morning while you are just going to bed.

JunkyardJunk (I mean stuff) – As the jingle goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”.  The city does allow for some stuff to be around your property.  Typically the city or county will step in when the conditions become a health hazard.  Too much stuff can result in leaking fluids and chemicals, rodents and other pests (the Bubonic Plagues was spread by rodents), and structural issues that could lead to injuries.  You can have your stuff, but keep it neat.

Animals – There have always been ordinances particularly for dogs.  They must be under control.  Off your property they must be leashed, licensed (requiring a rabies vaccination), and you must have a baggy along to clean up any of their “solid waste”.  But with the increased interest in urban agriculture, newer rules have been put in place to protect the rights of the greater public.  According to Backyard Chickens, Sioux Falls laws allow up to 6 chickens.  If you’ve ever smelled a chicken coop, you can understand why they limit the number.  If you haven’t smelled a coop, chicken manure includes a lot of ammonia.  It smells.  Second, only hens are allowed.  This is so that neighbors can set their own alarm clocks rather than your rooster crowing at the crack of dawn.

Parked Vehicles – Have a camper?  Boat? Trailer?  Did you know there are limits on where you can park it?  In Sioux Falls, it must be parked on a permanent surface (concrete or asphalt), which is accessible without driving over grass or landscaping, and the item must be completely behind the front façade line of the home.  If it is on the street, it must be moved every 24 hours.  How far does it need to move?  I’ll leave that up to you and the officer that responds to the complaint.

Tree Branches – Being someone of above-average height, this one is personal to me.  Nothing like an eye full of pine needles to make you hate trees.  By city rules, your trees must be trimmed 10 feet above the sidewalk and 12 feet above the street.  Aside from tall people walking in the dark, consider the blind or those in wheelchairs who may not be able to step around branches hanging over the sidewalk.

I suppose there are more, but I think you can get the point.  You and your neighbors all live in the same community.  Just because you can get away with something, should you?  Is there a better way to be a good neighbor?  Not only will these things prevent tickets, fines, and bills, but when you look out for your neighbor they are more likely to look out for you.

Isn’t that what a community is supposed to be about?

After all, the laws that exist are designed to protect the greater welfare of the community as a while.

Another key piece that leads to stronger communities is home ownership.  If you are interested in learning more about home ownership and the rewards and responsibilities that come along with it, CFR offers free Homebuyer Express classes.  You can find upcoming classes on our calendar.


written by Breck Miller
images courtesy

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