Written by Jess Nield
Nuisance claims can be divided into two types; private nuisance, where the actions of the defendant cause a significant and unreasonable interference with the claimant’s land or their use of that land, and public nuisance, in which the actions of the defendant affects the reasonable comfort and convenience of a person.
To make a private nuisance claim you must be able to prove you have suffered a continuous, unlawful and indirect interference with the use or enjoyment of the land which you own and a claim can only concerned with the effect on your land rather than personal harm. In terms of continuous interference, it has to have happened over a period of time and more than once. In addition, to prove the aspect of unlawful interference it must be proved that the defendant used their own property in a manner which injured the claimant and this manner must be compared against; the locality (in terms of what would reasonably be expected to occur in that area), the sensitivity of the claimant (how tolerant they are to disturbances of any scale), the utility of the defendant’s conduct (whether or not the action causing a nuisance to one person is of value to the community as a whole) and finally the state of the defendant’s land (whether or not they took reasonable steps to prevent or minimise the dangers of something on their property causing nuisance to another person). Finally, a claimant must prove physical damage to the land itself or damage to their own health which impairs their enjoyment of their land such as headaches caused by noisy neighbours.
You can only make a private nuisance claim if you own the land, have exclusive possession of it or occupy it as a tenant. You are only liable if you created the nuisance, are an occupier of the land who is allowing nuisance to occur or you are a landlord. Landlords are liable if the nuisance caused by the land they own was part of the normal use for which the land was let, if they knew of the nuisance prior to the tenancy or if the landlord reserved the right to enter and repair their property during a tenancy.
Following a successful claim, you can be granted different types of remedies – compensation for damages, which are quantified according to the damage done, or an injunction, which orders the nuisance to stop or an abatement, where the victim takes measures himself to stop the nuisance.
To make a public nuisance claim you must prove that a person’s conduct or behaviour has caused injury, loss or damage to the community as a whole. To make a successful claim you must first seek to assess who the public is, in terms of who the nuisance affects as it can only be classed as a public nuisance if it has a widespread and indiscriminate effect which means that preventing it becomes the reasonable responsibility of the community as a whole. Like private nuisance claims, you must be able to prove that the nuisance is an unreasonable and continued offence but a significant difference is that public nuisance can sometimes be considered a crime.
Nuisance claims are often complex and technical cases and it is always advised that you seek legal advice as the technicalities of the law must be observed in order to provide the correct evidence to support your claim.
Edited by Alison Rocca