Nuisance goes beyond damage being caused to your property. It can also be caused when your neighbour uses their property or behaves in a way which has detrimental effect on your property. It does not necessarily have a physical effect – your neighbour may be creating noise, or their use of the land causes odours or vermin for example.
When there is no physical damage, it can often feel as though nobody else understands just how bad things are for you as a homeowner. However, making people understand just what life is like and how bad conditions at your property are is crucial. Whilst your own account about the nuisance and the effects on you is hugely important, it is only half the picture. Below is a checklist of the sort of evidence you need to succeed:
- Keep a diary: Whilst I am not suggesting you let the dispute take over your life, keep a log of dates and times when the noise, odour etc is present. Note down the weather conditions or anything else which stands down as unusual about the day. These diary sheets can be sent to the local authority as evidence or can be used to back up your own statement. The diary needs to be consistent and regular. A good diary is invaluable evidence as often it is unlikely an opponent will have detailed knowledge of what happened on specific dates to counter you.
- Take photographs: Seems obvious? Often clients come to me describing situations which would be far better explained by a photograph. Imagine a judge considering your case just sat in a courtroom. You need to show them what it’s like on the ground and make them understand the layout quickly. Photographs are also essential in showing any changes on site, for example, expansion or other developments, or items being moved around.
- Do your research: Always try to establish the history of the sites and properties in question. Sometimes it may be obvious, for example if it is residential property in a street of houses. Sometimes, the history may be less clear, for example agricultural land. It is essential to work out if the land has any planning permissions or specific status of use. We can assist you with this.
- Eliminate other possible causes: Sometimes the cause of the nuisance may be obvious – like your neighbour playing loud music into the early hours. But what if the nuisance is odour coming from a nearby farm? You need to be able to isolate that specific farm as the cause and eliminate all other potential sources, for example other farms even if further away, or fields nearby where crops are grown. Identifying the source of the nuisance is crucial if you are to succeed. It is usually a matter for the experts, which leads me onto point 5.
- Call in the experts: Nuisance claims based on loss of amenity, like noise or odour, can win or lose depending on the quality of expert evidence. Whilst ultimately, it is up to a judge to decide whether nuisance exists, they will be lead by an expert opinion. Selecting an appropriate expert is crucial. I cannot emphasise this enough. It is essential to chose someone with not only the relevant qualifications, but also experience in being an expert witness in litigation. Don’t be fooled by those offering cheaper fees; it is often a false economy meaning you may need to pay for further expert evidence in the future, by when it may be too late You need someone who knows the court rules and most importantly is prepared to stick by their opinion even when being cross-examined. Stephensons can provide advice about expert evidence drawing on our extensive experience.
- And finally, don’t hang around: In nuisance cases, it is essential that you act swiftly, as delay is a factor the court looks at when deciding what remedy to award.
Stephensons has a team specialising in nuisance cases, who can advise about such claims, the evidence needed and what you need to do next. Please contact us for assistance.
By Amy Johnson, neighbour disputes solicitor