Statutory nuisance

Statutory nuisance is more than a mere annoyance and will have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of anyone affected. You can make a claim of statutory nuisance to your local authority. Your local authority will then make the decision to intercede or not. What is statutory nuisance and how can your local authority help you sort it out? Read this guide to find out.

What is statutory nuisance?

To fall within the definition of statutory nuisance, an activity needs to be, or be likely to be:

  • a nuisance, or
  • harmful to health (eg sleeplessness).

An especially vulnerable person cannot claim statutory nuisance for an activity which would not ordinarily affect most people. However, if a nuisance which would affect the ordinary public has particularly severe effects on particular people, the fact that they are more vulnerable than most will not prevent them from bringing a claim.

What is considered a statutory nuisance?

Activities which might be caught by the definition of statutory nuisance are things that are or may be injurious to health or a nuisance and arise as a result of:

  • the physical state of the premises.
  • smoke, fumes or gases emitted from the premises, or from a vehicle, machinery or equipment in a street (eg factory fumes).
  • dust, steam, smell, etc on industrial, trade or business premises.
  • any accumulation or deposit which is prejudicial to health or a nuisance (eg rubbish).
  • noise coming from the premises or from a vehicle, machinery or equipment in a street.

Things that have been found to be a nuisance include:

  • Loud music being played every week during the early evening and into the night.
  • Dogs left at home all day and barking for several minutes when someone walked by.
  • A business installing a new machine without noise insulation.

Things that have been found not to be a nuisance include:

  • A person carrying out DIY during the day and at weekends over a few weeks.
  • Noise from children playing on a trampoline in their garden.
  • Dust from a construction site where reasonable control methods were being used.

How is nuisance dealt with?

The local authority (eg an environmental health officer) is responsible for deciding whether or not a statutory nuisance is occurring or is likely to occur. This will involve looking at whether the matters complained of are a nuisance or are/are likely to be damaging to health. In making the decision, the environmental health officer will balance a number of factors, such as the:

  • nature and location of the nuisance.
  • time at which the nuisance occurred and its duration.
  • the utility of the activity concerned.

Abatement notice

If the local authority is satisfied that a nuisance exists, it must issue an abatement notice against the person responsible.

The abatement notice must require:

  • that the nuisance to be prohibited or its occurrence/recurrence restricted and/or
  • works or other steps to be carried out to comply with the notice.

It will also set out a time limit for compliance with the notice.

Failure to comply with an abatement notice

Failure to comply with an abatement notice without reasonable excuse is a criminal offence. The maximum penalty for breaching an abatement notice is a £20,000 fine for industrial, trade or business premises and a £5,000 fine and £500 daily penalty for other premises. If a complaint was initially made by an individual to a local authority, then the court has the power to award compensation to the person concerned.

Defences

Where an abatement notice relates to activities carried on at a trade or business premises, it is a defence in some circumstances to show that the best practicable means (BPM) have been used to prevent or counteract the nuisance. BPM involves having regard to local conditions and circumstances, the current state of technical knowledge, and financial implications.

There are also specific defences for complaints of noise and nuisance on construction sites and in areas where there are registered noise levels.