How to decide what a legal nuisance is
To determine whether a nuisance complaint is justified we have to make an assessment of the evidence. This usually involves looking at the duration (how long does the nuisance last for), frequency (how often does it recur), and the intensity (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 eg 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 disturbance is an actionable nuisance under the law, and we have to decide between something that may be 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
Just because noise can be heard from a neighbouring property, or smoke from a garden bonfire can be detected, it does not necessarily mean that these actions are breaking the law.
Examples have been given below about what is more likely to be considered an issue:
- Someone who has been having smoky bonfires on a fortnightly basis regularly for some weeks or months where the smoke soils washing, or can be smelt inside a house, is more likely to be causing a legal nuisance rather than someone who has a one-off bonfire, even if this is very smoky
- The dog owner who fails to control their dog allowing loud barking to recur constantly over a long period of time on regular occasions will be more serious than when a dog barks briefly when the postman calls, or occasionally when someone walks by
- Hearing a neighbour's TV or music is unlikely to be a legal nuisance if it is barely audible in the home or only occasionally louder. However, the neighbour could be causing a legal nuisance if they regularly play their music or TV for prolonged periods at a volume that is excessively loud
- The person with a security light that prevents someone from sleeping could be causing a legal nuisance