Nuisance claims: What are they?
Under English law, nuisance claims can be categorised into public nuisance and private nuisance. In addition to this, nuisance claims can be made under common law or as a statutory claim under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Nuisance can include noise, smells, leaks, damage to property and acts which cause access issues to land.
Private nuisance can be defined as an act that interferes with an individual’s use or enjoyment of their property. A private nuisance claim is usually the appropriate claim if an act interferes with only one individual’s use of their property, this type of nuisance will be the focus of this article.
By contrast, a public nuisance can be defined as an act that impacts a group of people rather than just an individual.
How can I make a private nuisance claim under common law?
Case law has helped develop this area of law by setting out certain requirements that must be met before an act can be deemed as a private nuisance. Before a claim can be made for private nuisance, the claimant must show that he/she has an interest or right over the property. It is important to note that an individual with ownership rights can be deemed to be liable for the nuisance even if the owner is not the cause of the nuisance but authorised the act which is causing an interference.
Initially, it must be shown that the interference was continuous which means the act must have continued over a length of time. This will depend on the act undertaken and the length of time that the act continued.
Secondly, the interference must be deemed to be unlawful and there must therefore, be an unreasonable use of the property. However, the courts will balance all rights against the reasonable use of the property before they render an act as unlawful or unreasonable. The courts will take the following factors into consideration when determining whether the act or use of property is reasonable:
- the local area and neighbourhood;
- how sensitive the claimant is;
- who benefits from the defendant’s conduct;
- whether the act conducted is with malice;
- the state of the defendant’s land
Thirdly, the claimant must be able to prove the physical damage to their land or a damage to health. For example, this can include sleep deprivation due to loud noises and vibrations.
Common law provides certain remedies to claimants who are able to successfully show that a private nuisance occurred. These remedies can include an injunction and/or alternatively damages may be awarded. An injunction will mean that the defendant will have to stop the nuisance in accordance with the terms of the injunction.
If you require further information on whether you can make a successful claim for nuisance, contact our offices for a confidential discussion.
How can I make a statutory nuisance claim?
The Environmental Protection Act 1990 covers the statutory nuisance claims that can be made. Specifically, section 79 of the Environment Protection Act 1990 sets out certain matters that could potentially amount to a statutory nuisance, some of which includes:
- smoke from premises;
- fumes or gases;
- noise from premises
- vibration from premises
- noise from a vehicle or equipment;
- dust, smell, or steam from premises
For any of the issues outlined above to constitute a statutory nuisance, it must either unreasonably or substantially interfere with the enjoyment of a home or injure health.
It is the local authority’s responsibility to investigate such complaints and if the outcome of their investigation indicates that there is a statutory nuisance, the local authority will serve an abatement notice to the individual responsible for the nuisance. The abatement notice can require the individual to cease conducting the act which causes the nuisances or alternatively, the notice can set a time frame during which the act can be conducted. If the individual does not agree with being served with an abatement notice, he/she can appeal to the court within 21 days from the date that the notice was served.
It is important to note that in situations concerning noise nuisance, the local authority must wait a maximum of seven days before an abatement notice is issued as they must attempt to stop or limit the individual from creating noise.
If an individual fails to comply with such a notice, it could result in prosecution and fine. However, if prosecution is not the correct remedy, the local authority can also make an application to the High Court for an injunction.
This is a complex area of law which requires thorough investigation and a detailed understanding of the case law. If you are concerned about an abatement notice or simply wish to establish a private nuisance, contact us at our offices and our friendly team of experts will be able to assess your concerns in detail.