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When Neighbors Raise a Stink

Across the globe, those in close proximity clash over each other’s smells. Here are five of the most litigious cases we found.
How many cats is an un-neighborly number?
How many cats is an un-neighborly number? Madison McVeigh/CityLab

Our sense of smell has historically been undervalued. “Man smells poorly,” wrote Aristotle, and Charles Darwin noted that smell was of “extremely slight service” to humans. But tell that to the plethora of people around the world who file complaints and lawsuits against their neighbors for the allegedly stinky odors they produce (or to the many researchers who are finding that the human olfactory sense is stronger than we give it credit for).

This past spring, Italy’s highest court even ruled that residents who allow cooking odors to permeate their neighbors’ living space are committing a crime, dubbed “olfactory molestation.” The ruling arose from a case in which neighbors in an apartment block in the town of Monfalcone, on the Adriatic Sea, complained about the smells of pasta sauce and fried seafood wafting from one couple’s unit. The judges in Rome said the smells were so strong they were “beyond the limits of tolerability,” and ordered the offenders to pay a fine of $2,200 USD.