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Public Nuisance Laws: Weeds, Pests, Diseases, Oh My!

Have you been slacking off on your landscaping? Well, you may want to get back on that horse lawnmower. If you continue to house certain weeds, diseases, or pests, you could face liability under Massachusetts' public nuisance law.

Even if you have the skills of a topiary artist, you can't keep pests, diseases, and noxious weeds that are governed by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 128.

Sections 16 and 24 give the Director of Regulatory Services from the Dept. of Agricultural Resources the right to enter public and private property to inspect for noxious weeds, insect pests, and plant diseases that are "likely to cause loss to adjoining owners."

Inspection Process

The director may inspect your orchards, field gardens, roadsides, or other places where trees, shrubs or other plants exist, according to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst's Agriculture & Landscape Program.

If a noxious weed, pest, or disease is discovered, you may receive written notice that it constitutes a public nuisance.

You'll also be given methods of treatment and a deadline.

If you object to the inspector's proposed action, you have the right to file a written appeal.

But if you refuse or neglect the notice and also fail to file an appeal, the director can come onto your property, without permission, and treat or destroy the affected weeds, trees, shrubs or plants -- and bill you the cost.

If you don't pay up, you can be sued.

Actions to Take

If you have plants with any of these pests, you should contact the Director of Regulatory Services at the Department of Agricultural Resources.

You may also want to consult with an experienced Boston real estate attorney to prevent facing potential liability from both the government and fellow neighbors.

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