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What is a statutory nuisance?

A guide to the law on what is considered as a nuisance and how we investigate.

There is no simple definition of 'statutory nuisance' under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and no legally defined limits on acceptable times, durations or noise levels. This means that we need to gather detailed patterns of occurrences to demonstrate a persistent and continuing nuisance in order to secure a successful conclusion.

Statutory nuisance is something that materially impacts on your day to day living, for example you can't sit in the garden or hang out washing due to the smoke and ash from a bonfire or you can't sleep at night because of constant music noise next door.

The following points give some guidance:

  • the nuisance must be considerable, to some people, anything that disturbs or annoys them is thought of as a nuisance, however for legal action a statutory nuisance needs to be more than simple annoyance
  • a 'one off' event can be regarded as a statutory nuisance if it is witnessed by council officers
  • the council (and ultimately the criminal court) has to be satisfied that the problem is an unreasonable and substantial interference with the use and enjoyment of property

Noise nuisance that is considered to be a statutory nuisance can come either from a neighbour's house, commercial or industrial premises, or from stationary vehicles or equipment in the street. 

These are the noise nuisances we can investigate:

  • animal noise
  • building alarm noise
  • car repair noise
  • DIY noise
  • music noise
  • vehicle alarm noise

Most types of domestic noise such as voices, washing machines, kitchen equipment, doors closing or toilets flushing are not enforceable against by law. The council has no power to make people change their behaviour in these respects. Where students houses are causing the problem due to late hours being kept, we can offer advice and will liaise with the university to assist student households integrate with the local community.

Before you report the noise to us, you should:

  • talk to your neighbours to find out if they're affected as well
  • talk to the person causing the problem, they may not realise how it is affecting you and you may be able to reach a compromise by taking this simple action. However, it would be wise to consider what reaction you are likely to get from this approach. If your neighbour reacts aggressively, do not persist and put yourself at risk
  • if you are a private tenant, contact your landlord or residents' association

If you have failed to resolve the nuisance satisfactorily and you now need to report it to the council, please consider if you have enough information to provide us so that an effective resolution can be gained. The council needs to have sufficient evidence to support the allegation so that it can be investigated and proven. This may involve the requirement of an officer to be present to witness the nuisance. The council (and ultimately the court) has to be satisfied that the problem is an unreasonable and substantial interference has occurred with the use and enjoyment of property.

Before we can begin an investigation you (the reporter) will be asked to collect evidence about the nuisance by keeping a diary of the occurrences so that we can be sure that it meets the statutory regulations. You should then send in the diary sheet with your report so that the need for action can be assessed.

Read more on anti-social behaviour »

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Article utilities:  Bookmark and Share Print Print this page Last updated: 01 Sep 2017 at 10:31