What does the council consider when investigating a complaint?

Current nuisance law does not specify any guidelines about whether a particular noise, odour, smoke or other intrusion constitutes a legal nuisance, or is simply an annoyance that a complainant must put up with. The nuisance law does not specify days or times when you can or cannot do something, nor does it prescribe certain decibel (loudness) limits for noise nuisances. This means that you can have a nuisance at any times of the day or night. It can cause problems because people who wish to complain do not know whether or not the problem they are experiencing is against the law, and very often we can't advise them either until we've investigated their complaint further.

To determine whether a nuisance complaint is justified council officers have to make an assessment of the evidence relating to the complaint. This usually involves looking at the duration (how long does the nuisance last for), frequency (how often does it recur e.g. daily, weekly, monthly), and the intensity (for example, with regard to noise how loud is it?) of the nuisance.

We also take into account the time that the interference occurs as some nuisances, such as noise, will have more impact if they occur late evening or during the night. The local environment is also important and can have an important bearing on the certain types and level of intrusion that a person living in the close vicinity might reasonably expect to experience. For example, a person living next to a farm might reasonably expect to hear noise very early in the morning and also notice a certain amount of farmyard smells!

Not every intrusion we may notice in or on our properties constitutes an actionable nuisance under the law, and investigating officers have to distinguish between something that may be irritating and annoying, but not a nuisance in the legal sense, and those that cause a more substantial interference with the average persons use and enjoyment of his/her property.