Nuisance FAQs

What is Statutory Nuisance?

A statutory nuisance can be defined as "an unlawful interference with a person’s use or enjoyment of land or some right over, or in connection with it".

When considering the existence of a statutory nuisance, 'reasonableness' is the central concept that recognises that nuisances arise from conflicting uses of land. The law of nuisance attempts to balance these conflicting interests and achieve a compromise which recognises the demands of living in a society.

It is not a straightforward matter defining what is 'reasonable' in statutory nuisance. It will depend on the nature of the case and the purpose of the activities engaged in, but there are a number of matters which may be considered in reaching a view on the matter. These include: motive, duration, intensity and time of the offending activity, sensitivity of the complainant and the nature of the locality.

With regards to the sensitivity of the complainant, the test for determining whether a statutory nuisance exists is an objective one and should be judged according to the standards of the average person, and the courts would not be able to have regard to sensitivity beyond that of the average person.

How are reports investigated?

Before requesting an investigation you should consider if you can approach the person causing the disturbance. Often the person/business responsible for giving rise to your complaint may not aware that they are causing disturbance and speaking or writing to them will be the quickest way of resolving the issue.

If this action does not resolve your complaint and you decide to 'report it', you will in most cases be required to complete diary sheets, which can downloaded below, noting the date, time and nature of your complaint. Your first set of diary sheets should show the issues that occur over a period of 14 days. The diary sheets are important as they assist the investigating officer in understanding the situation from your perspective. They are used to determine if your complaint should be progressed and a further investigation pursued. They also play a part in the council’s decision that a nuisance exists and form an important part of the evidence, should the council have to resort to formal action and ultimately take the matter in front of the courts. For this reason it is important that you complete diary sheets throughout the course of your complaint. If you fail to complete diary sheets and submit them regularly, your complaint may be closed until further information is supplied.

Upon receipt of your diary sheets the investigating officer will make an assessment of how to proceed. They may approach the source of the alleged nuisance to raise the incidents noted in your diary sheets and negotiate a way of reducing or abating the disturbance. Alternatively, the officer may install noise monitoring equipment, or complete site visits to witness and assess the level of nuisance.

If the issue is confirmed as a Statutory Nuisance it is likely that an abatement notice will be served.

What is an abatement notice?

If the investigation of your complaint shows that the issue constitutes a Statutory Nuisance, Environmental Protection officers will serve an abatement notice on the people responsible for the statutory nuisance or on the owner or occupier of a premises. This may require whoever’s responsible for the nuisance to limit the activity to certain times, stop it altogether to avoid causing a nuisance or the notice could include other, specific actions to reduce the problem.

What are the penalties for not complying with an abatement notice?

Councils can also take action to stop or restrict the nuisance by carrying out works and making the person given the notice pay for them (this can include seizure and confiscation of equipment). If someone doesn’t comply with an abatement notice they can be prosecuted and fined.

For further information on the powers conferred to us by the Environmental Protection Act please see section 80 of the legislation.

Can abatement notices be appealed?

Those served with an abatement notice can appeal to a magistrate’s court within 21 days of getting the notice. Find out about appeals. Complainants would be required to appear in court as part of this process.

Can members of the public take their own action using the Environmental Protection Act?

Find out how you can take your own action in court.

Downloadable documents

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This page was last updated on 24 November 2016

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