Minnesota’s Public and Private Nuisance Laws

This and the next several posts describe Minnesota laws that provide remedies to combat offensive or injurious conditions or activities that are a “nuisance” to the surrounding community. A condition or activity may be either a “public nuisance” or a “private nuisance” depending on the scope of the problems caused by the nuisance and on whether it is challenged by a public agency or a private individual.

A “nuisance” is an activity that, in one way or another, affects the right of an individual to enjoy the use of a specified property.

Generally speaking, the law recognizes two distinct types of nuisance. A “public nuisance” is an activity (or a failure to act in some cases) that unreasonably interferes or obstructs a right that is conferred on the general public, such as the enjoyment of a public park or other public space. A public nuisance may also exist where there is a condition that is dangerous generally to members of the public (such as a health hazard) or is in some way offensive to accepted community standards (such as loud music late at night).

A “private nuisance” is one that affects an individual’s right to enjoyment of some property or activity, but does not necessarily affect the community as a whole. For example, a large tree overhanging a neighbor’s yard may be a private nuisance where it affects the neighbor’s enjoyment and use of her backyard.

Various sections of Minnesota law provide a remedy to address both public and private nuisances, although a more comprehensive treatment is given to public nuisances. The first two sections of this publication address activities considered to be a public nuisance, while the final section briefly addresses private nuisances.

The next three posts will cover:

The content of this post and any related posts has been copied or adopted from the Minnesota House of Representatives Research Department’s Information Brief, Minnesota’s Public and Private Nuisance Laws, written by legislative analyst Matt Gehring.