In legal terms, a nuisance is defined as a continuous, unlawful interference with enjoyment of land.
The act, or omission that causes the nuisance does not have to be unlawful per se. Rather, it is the effect the act or omission has on another person’s land that renders it unlawful. The loss suffered can either be by way of damage to property, or interference with the quiet enjoyment of your land.
By way of example, carrying out building works to your property is not necessarily unlawful (provided necessary consents and permissions have been obtained). However, this act could amount to a nuisance if the building work took place late into the evening/early hours of the morning, with the use of loud tools or equipment.
‘Continuous’ in this context has its ordinary meaning and what will amount to a continuous interference will largely depend on the circumstances. To take the example above, if building works were carried out late into the evening on one occasion, it is more likely than not, this would not be construed as continuous. However, if over the course of a few weeks, loud and disruptive building works were carried out late into the evening/early hours of the morning, this may amount to a private nuisance.
Locality is a key factor to consider when determining whether or not the matter complained of amounts to a nuisance. For instance, what is a reasonable amount of noise in inner London will differ from a village. Indeed, neighbours occupying a residential block of flats would expect more background noise than someone owning a detached house in a secluded, rural area.
Who can bring a claim?
In order to bring a claim for private nuisance, the potential claimant must have a proprietary or possessory interest over the land in question. Therefore, a freeholder or leaseholder could potentially bring a claim, but not say, a dependant or family member of the freeholder or leaseholder, who has no proprietary or possessory interest in the land in question.
The usual remedy sought in an action for private nuisance is an injunction. The purpose of an injunction is to order and compel an individual to do, or not do something. For example, not to make noise after a certain time of day or night.
As an alternative, damages (compensation) may be awarded in lieu of an injunction. This is often the case where the act or omission amounting to a nuisance has a public benefit and this benefit outweighs the potential harm the claimant may suffer, were an injunction not to be granted. For example, organised team sports.
If you seek advice with regard to a potential claim for nuisance, or other property dispute, please get in touch with Hanne & Co’s Property Litigation & Dispute Resolution Department and we will be happy to assist.