Nuisances can either arise under ‘common law’ or under statute. Common law nuisances are either public nuisances or private. Private nuisances are usually caused by someone doing something on their own land which they are lawfully entitled to do, but which becomes a nuisance when the activity extends to and affects neighbouring land. Public nuisances are caused when your activities endanger the life, health, property, morals or comfort of the public or obstructs the public in the exercise or enjoyment of rights common to all.
Claims can be brought against landowners by neighbouring occupiers where private nuisances are believed to have taken place. The most common complaints are in relation to noise and disturbance and water and flooding nuisance. Activities which can typically cause annoyance include events attracting large numbers of visitors and traffic, noisy events such as festivals and construction works creating noise, dust and traffic. An aggrieved neighbour can bring a claim against you to stop the activity, by an injunction, and for damages.
If you are planning to carry out a new activity on your land it is sensible to seek advice from a relevant professional advisor and to think about the impact of the activity on neighbouring landowners in advance and to consult with them.
A landowner owes a “measured duty” to take reasonable steps to prevent natural occurrences, such as floods on its land, from causing damage to neighbouring properties. Reasonable steps will include taking advice before carrying out flood risk activities e.g building structures designed to contain or divert flood waters or dredging a river (you should also check if an environmental permit is required) and keeping the stream beds and structures, such as culverts or trash screens, clear of obstructions. Failure to do so may lead to a claim if water escapes onto the neighbour’s land and again the claim can be for an injunction to damages.
Nuisance claims can also arise in relation to overhanging tree branches; if trees overhang a highway then you may be liable to car owners and pedestrians. Finally, what if you are the landlord of a tenant that is causing a nuisance? Happily the law says that it is the occupying tenant who is liable and not the landlord. However, if as landlord you expressly or impliedly authorised the tenant’s behaviour that is causing the nuisance, the position may be different.
For further help or advice relating to the points above, please contact Johanne Spittle, Partner in the firms’ Agriculture and Landed Estates Department.
Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.