The Law and Neighbours who are a Nuisance

by The FindLaw Team

Many of us fantasise living next to a neighbour that’ll bring us delicious baked goods on a regular basis and is so quiet that we hardly notice that they’re around. Well, except for when they are handing out their delicious wares for us. Unfortunately, there will also be some of us who’ll live next door to a neighbour that is an utter nuisance. The nightmare neighbour might throw raucous parties on a daily basis, produce strange odours from their property, and may be a general nuisance to the rest of the neighbourhood as well. If this is the type of situation that you are currently facing, find out what some of the legal options available to you when dealing with a neighbour from hell.

What is nuisance?

Readers should keep in mind that the legal definition of nuisance is different from how we might define nuisance. Furthermore, legal nuisance does not also fit in with the dictionary definition of the term.

If your neighbour is just being annoying, rather than a legal nuisance, there’s not much you can do. Behaviour that is considered as a legal nuisance, are activities that interfere with your ability to enjoy your property, and can either be private or public.

What is private nuisance?

The most likely type of nuisance that most readers would probably experience is ‘private nuisance’, which usually are disputes involving two or more parties.

In order for a private nuisance to be considered as legal nuisance, the behaviour must not be trivial or unreasonable. Things like loud noises, smells, or any other behaviour that is having an adverse impact on your right to enjoy your property – and is personally affecting you – may be considered as a private nuisance.

When the courts are considering a complaint of private nuisance, they usually take into account some of the following factors:

• the activity that is causing the interference
• the history of the behaviour, and whether it is ongoing
• the time of day that the nuisance is taking place
• would a reasonable person consider the behaviour as a nuisance.

What is public nuisance?

Although private nuisance may be covered by local council laws or legislative instruments, private nuisance is still usually not considered as a criminal offence. In contrast, a public nuisance may be both a civil and criminal wrong and may result in a fine or imprisonment for the person who is committing a public nuisance.

Public nuisance can be an act that has an impact on a number of people, rather than just you. However, if you are bringing an action against a person for public nuisance, you must be able to show that the offending behaviour has had a greater impact on you when compared with other people in your neighbourhood. Also, the complaint must also not be trivial or frivolous.

What behaviours are not considered a nuisance?

When deciding whether or not the neighbour is a legal nuisance, the courts will make a judgment on the facts surrounding the matter. For instance, if you have put up with the offending behaviour for a certain length of time or their use of the land is an activity that is considered reasonable, the court might take the view that the behaviour of your neighbour is not a legal nuisance.

Can I go onto my neighbour’s property to stop the nuisance?

If the offending behaviour is on a neighbour’s property, you may be allowed to prevent the nuisance on the condition that he or she has granted you permission to enter their property, and that you do what is reasonably necessary to stop the behaviour from continuing. You should also be mindful that in such a situation, a very delicate approach is needed or you might actually find yourself being the one in trouble.

Neighbours who are a nuisance may prevent you from properly enjoying your time at home. You do have the option to prevent a neighbour from committing the nuisance via legal means, but always seek the proper legal assistance if you do decide to take action through the courts.


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