Legal definitions of nuisance

Common law nuisance

In common law there is something termed a 'nuisance' which can be defined as a matter which is an unreasonable and substantial interference on the use and enjoyment of a person's property.

For a matter to qualify and be actionable as a nuisance in law it must be a serious matter.

One-off events are rarely sufficient. Also, specific sensitivities of those suffering cannot be taken account of in deciding whether a matter is a nuisance.

Taking action in common law has some advantages over the statutory nuisance procedure which is described below.

Not least among the advantages is the fact that action is not restricted to the particular types of nuisance which form 'statutory nuisance'.

However, there are also disadvantages.

This is provided merely as a means by which to introduce statutory nuisance; you are strongly advised to seek legal advice before embarking on common law nuisance action.

Statutory nuisance

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 (and its predecessors) has borrowed the term nuisance and there are many similarities between the common law concept and that of statutory nuisance.

An important difference, however, is that action under common law must be taken by the person suffering it whereas action in respect of statutory nuisance action can be taken by that person (under section 82 of the act) or by the local authority.

Other important differences include the following:

1. A matter which is a statutory nuisance must fall within one of the following categories.

(a) any premises in such a state as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance;
(b) smoke emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance;
(c) fumes or gases emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance;
(d) any dust, steam, smell or other effluvia arising on industrial, trade or business premises and being prejudicial to health or a nuisance;
(e) any accumulation or deposit which is prejudicial to health or a nuisance;
(f) any animal kept in such a place or manner as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance;
(fa) any insects emanating from relevant industrial, trade or business premises and being prejudicial to health or a nuisance;
(fb) artificial light emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance;
(
g) noise emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance;
(ga) noise that is prejudicial to health or a nuisance and is emitted from a vehicle, machinery or equipment in a street
(h) any other matter declared by any enactment to be a statutory nuisance.

2. Statutory nuisance law is based in public health legislation and for something to be a statutory nuisance there must be an effect on health or wellbeing.

Also, as stated in the section above on common law nuisance, the specific sensitivities of those suffering cannot be taken account of - the test is therefore whether a typical person would be expected to suffer some health effect from the nuisance