What can I do about my neighbor’s weeds?

Weeds

You might have noticed that the Reno area had a pretty wet winter. The wettest ever recorded! That means Reno residents are seeing a lot of weeds popping up around town.

Most of our residents have done a great job of clearing weeds from their property, but Reno’s Code Enforcement team has seen an increase in the number of calls to report weeds at a neighbor’s home.

The City of Reno would like to remind residents to take the time to clear weeds from their property. The Reno Municipal Code requires that all premises and exterior property visible from the public right-of-way shall be maintained free from weeds or plant growth in excess of two feet and shall cover no more than 25% of the front yard or any vacant land. This requirement is enforced under the Public Nuisance Laws.

It is the property owner’s responsibility to ensure that no weeds encroach into the public right-of-way. So, if a renter has an issue with overgrown weeds, that renter is encouraged to reach out to his or her landlord to address the issue.

While the City of Reno is encouraging all residents to take care of their own yards, residents can also call Reno Direct to report weeds that are:

  • Taller than two feet
  • And cover 25% of a neighbor’s front yard or vacant land.
  • These two requirements must be met in order for the City of Reno’s Code Enforcement Team to take action.

It’s important to note that, in order to take any action, the Code Enforcement officer also has to be able to see the weeds from the public right-of-way. So, fenced backyards are usually off limits, even if the weeds are overgrown. That’s because the enforcement authority provided to the city is under the nuisance powers of keeping the “public free from nuisance.” A person’s backyard is considered private with an expectation of privacy from the government, unless a crime is being committed.

Residents can reach Reno Direct by calling 775-334-INFO (4636) or emailing RenoDirect@Reno.gov.

If you’ve called to report your neighbor’s weeds, we ask for your patience, as our Code Enforcement team is currently being inundated with these requests. The City of Reno is processing these calls and will get to them as soon as possible, based on priority.

Once Reno Direct collects the information, they will give it to Code Enforcement or the Reno Fire Department, which will send an automatic letter to the property owner reminding the owner to take care of the weeds. Code Enforcement determines “nuisances,” and the Reno Fire Department will determine “fire hazards”.

If the vegetation is dry and dead, then it may be considered a fire hazard. A fire hazard is defined as a situation or condition where there is a greater-than-normal risk of harm to property or people due to a fire.

Generally a fire hazard can exist when dry and dead vegetation more than 18 inches tall encroaches onto a neighboring property or structure. On a normal city-sized parcel, the Reno Fire Department suggests a fire fuel break of approximately 10 feet along the perimeter of the property that borders other people’s property. The street, driveways, non-combustible walls and sidewalks can also serve as a fire fuel break. For privately owned properties greater than one acre, a minimum width of 30 feet fire fuel break must be maintained separating dry vegetation from any combustible structure.

In regards to weed complaints that are called in as a fire hazard on single family homes, the Reno Fire Department will only address dead and dry vegetation that encroaches to the neighboring properties or structures. Due to limited staffing, complaints with too little information will not be investigated.

While more than 50% of the issues are corrected simply by sending a letter, Code Enforcement does send someone to investigate the property about 14 days after they send a letter. If the Code Enforcement officer inspects the property from a public right-of-way and does find a violation, they’ll send a certified letter to the property owner. If the property owner still doesn’t take care of the weeds, he or she could be fined up to $500 a day until the issue is corrected.

One of the main reasons to clear weeds from your yard is to help create defensible space. The Reno Fire Department is encouraging property owners to give their yards a yearly checkup.

Residents should:

  • Create a 10 to 30-foot, landscaped space around the radius of the home that is irrigated during fire season, keeping the area lean, clean and green.
  • Remove all dead vegetation, including shrubs, dried grass, fallen branches and pine needles.
  • Thin out thick shrubs and trees to create separation between them.
  • Remove “ladder fuels” by removing low tree branches, removing or pruning the shrubs under the tree.

The Nevada Cooperative Extension has a website that can further assist homeowners with these questions. Homeowners can also visit the Living with Fire website for more information.

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