Maintaining good relationships with your neighbors can be especially tricky business and one of the things that either make or breaks these relations is noise.
Getting to the point, is it illegal to mow your lawn at night? The general consensus for virtually every municipality is a resounding no, you cannot mow your lawn late at night. Unfortunately like most legal questions, the answer is: it depends. Specifically, it depends on where you live.
Unsurprisingly, these do apply to you and your nightly lawn mowing. But wait – what if I work nightshifts and don’t have time during the day you ask? Can’t I just mow at night? Well, considering how not mowing your lawn is in fact, illegal this question can and has put many on the spot.
The Law’s Answer
The answer to these question hinges entirely on local ordinances which set their own curfews and often vary from each other. Each ordinance defines excessive noise as something that unreasonably violates the comfort and health of others nearby. Included in this are late-night partying, construction at inappropriate times, domestic power equipment, and noise produced by tools related to the maintenance of homes and grounds including- you guessed it- lawnmowers.
Now using your noisy lawnmower isn’t by itself illegal. It’s when you use them at inappropriate times, i.e. outside of prescribed timeframes and during ‘quiet hours’, that will get you in trouble through complaints, lawsuits, and fines.
To understand when quiet hours take place exactly, you’ll have to check with your local ordinances but roughly speaking, quiet hours are usually after the 7 am to 9 pm bracket during weekdays and on weekends, after the 8 am to 9 pm bracket. But again, we emphasize that this varies depending on where you live! For example, 7 am to 9 pm is the appropriate bracket in Denver and Madison while in Battle Ground, it’s 8 am to 8 pm and in Stockton, 8 am to 9 pm.
So, have roughly laid out the law, there surely are more unanswered questions on your mind. Like what exactly is the law behind all this? Are there any loopholes I could take advantage of? Is there anything else I can do? Let’s address this one by one.
Mowing at Night – The Law Explained
You might be wondering why it’s even illegal to mow late at night in the first place? To put it simply, in any neighborhood, everyone owes what is called a duty of care to each other. This means we must take reasonable steps to ensure what we do doesn’t harm our neighbors either physically or psychologically. This consequentially includes not doing anything that would impede their enjoyment of the comforts of their home.
By mowing your lawn at night, you are breaching this duty of care by affecting your neighbor’s enjoyment negatively. Further, it is entirely reasonable that the average person would foresee that but for your late-night mowing, your neighbors would have had a restful sleep and enjoyed the comfort of their home. Accordingly, the spirit of this idea is captured in the Noise Control Act 1972 and is reflected in various local ordinances.
Going back to the law, by mowing late at night, you are committing a nuisance by disrupting your neighbors’ rights to enjoy their home. You thus open yourself up to potential action through both criminal (public nuisance) and civil (private nuisance) legal channels.
A public nuisance is a nuisance where your noise causes damage that is suffered by the wider public and is a criminal offense. Don’t panic though – just because it comes with the word ‘criminal’, this doesn’t mean jail time.
This is a statutory offense which just means you will be fined by the state for mowing at night – irrespective of whether you had the intent to cause a nuisance. Conversely, private nuisance, a civil matter, basically means that by making excessive noise by mowing outside allocated hours, you breach the duty of care owed to your neighbors. And through this breach, you also open yourself up to private lawsuits from your neighbors!
Whether or not they choose to sue is entirely up to them but regardless, to avoid hefty fines and angry neighbors the answer is simple: check with your local laws and ordinances!
How Late Can You Mow Your Lawn?
Like we’ve emphasized above, how late into the night you can mow your lawn depends entirely on where you live and your local laws. While this could mean you can mow as late as 10 pm into the night, an important thing to note is just because something is technically permissible in law, this doesn’t always mean you should necessarily do it.
Snapping your fingers at waiters, being rude to cashiers, and not giving your seat to the elderly on the bus are all legal but are heavily frowned upon by the public.
The point we’re making is don’t forget to communicate with your neighbors. It could be legal to mow as early as 7 am or as late as 10 pm but not everyone is an early riser or late sleeper.
Can’t You Just Buy a Quieter Lawnmower?
One tempting proposition that might have crossed your mind is what if you use a quieter lawnmower? Indeed, by using a quiet lawnmower like manually operated reel-mowers, you can avoid the deafening noise of electric/gas mowers. However, the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side – so to speak.
Let’s consider the problems from two angles. Firstly, using a manual reel lawnmower at night can be dangerous. You’ll be working in the dark and unless you have a bright torch, mower lights or even lighting in your garden, you could run over a rock and damage your mower. You could even trip over something and injure yourself too!
And secondly, legally speaking, using a manual reel to bypass lawnmowing curfews is tricky business which, as we previously emphasized, depends entirely on where you live.
For example, local ordinance laws in West Orange explicitly states that ‘no person shall operate a… power lawnmower… except in accordance with the following schedule for hours and days of use’.
So, you could probably get away with using a manual reel if you lived here. But look southward at Richmond and you’ll find that ‘the operation of any lawn mower’ outside the specified window is illegal.
The point is, once again, it depends. Check with the laws of your specific municipality before making any decisions and you’ll be set.
What Alternatives Should I Consider?
We totally understand that for some, mowing the lawn during daytime can be a big hassle. You may be working late nightshifts as or even if you do happen to work normal hours, it might be raining during your mow time. However, we strongly suggest you consider other ways of keeping your lawn properly mowed for the sake of your neighbors and your wallet.
You could for one, just simply force yourself to find some time during the weekend to get the mowing over with. Maybe as even ask a friend or family member to help if time isn’t on your side! But maybe you live alone and happen to work seven days a week – what then? Well, you’re in luck. After all, the US has one of the biggest lawnmowing markets in the entire world. Accordingly, you won’t be hard-pressed to find a professional lawn mowing service to do your chores during more reasonable, daytime hours.