Nuisance neighbours

There are different ways in which neighbours can interfere with each others land. Problems of this type usually fall into the categories of trespass or nuisance. Nuisance has two aspects. The first is private nuisance and the second is public nuisance.

If you would like to speak to a member of our nuisance neighbour team contact us on 0203 816 9314 or complete our online enquiry form.

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Private nuisance

Private nuisance is a claim which can be brought by you if your land has been affected by a nuisance of some sort. The claim is brought against the creator of that nuisance. The creator can be the person creating the nuisance (even if that person is not in occupation of the land), the occupier of the land from which the nuisance originates or the owner of the land.

There are many different examples of nuisance, including nuisance caused by noise, leaks, smells, encroaching tree branches or roots and even escaping cricket balls. However, the list is not a closed one. Typically, a nuisance is caused as a result of an unreasonable use of someone else’s land which has an adverse effect on your land.

However, the court will not necessarily make a finding of nuisance just because your neighbour is using his land unreasonably or because you have suffered a disadvantage. The court has said that some level of disadvantage is permitted by law as part of normal life.

The Court is interested in whether your land has suffered physical damage, or if there is no physical damage, whether your quality of enjoyment of your land is sufficiently reduced.

If you say that your quality of enjoyment has been reduced the Court will go on to consider a variety of additional factors. For example - 

  • The duration of the nuisance. If the event is rare, the Court is less likely to say that it amounts to nuisance, unless the event that occurs rarely is sufficiently serious. 
  • The normal use of the land. If your neighbour is using their land in a normal and acceptable way, the court is less likely to make a finding of nuisance. 
  • The intention of your neighbour. If your neighbour intends to cause problems for you then the court is more likely to consider that their action(s) amount to nuisance.

Public nuisance

If you wish to bring a claim for public nuisance you must be able to show that the nuisance has wide ranging adverse affect on a class of people in society. You must then go on to show that you have suffered particular damage yourself. However, you do not need to own the land itself. Examples of public nuisance include obstructions to the highway and unauthorised raves.

If the court makes a finding of nuisance, it can order your neighbour to stop the nuisance from happening. You may also be able to claim for any loss that you have suffered.

Stephensons are able to provide advice in relation to a potential claim for private or public nuisance that you may have. Our solicitors are able to assist you by simply providing advice or assisting you to bring a claim through the courts should settlement not have been reached.

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Nuisance - evidence to succeed

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.

The standard the court will look at is the character of your neighbourhood. If you live next to a factory, it is likely to make more noise than a field of grain, or a field of sheep. So you should expect more noise and smell in an industrial area. 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 we are 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 us 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 led by an expert opinion. Selecting an appropriate expert is crucial. We cannot emphasise this enough. It is essential to choose 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.

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As an award-winning top 150 law firm, with over 450 staff based in offices across the country, you're never far from the advice you need.