If you are bothered by a statutory nuisance - what steps can you take?
This is only a brief and simplified extract of the law and how you can obtain assistance to bring about the abatement of a nuisance. Further advice and information can be obtained by contacting Environmental Health.
In the first instance it is best to discuss the problem with the person responsible for the nuisance. They may not realise they are disturbing others and may be willing to prevent it. Make a note of the date of your discussion with the person responsible for the nuisance and what is said. If the disturbance caused by the nuisance is likely to be widespread, it may be advantageous to approach other neighbours who may be similarly affected.
If, after your conversation, the disturbance continues, you should write to the person responsible for the nuisance, saying that you consider that he is causing a nuisance and that, unless he stops, you will have no alternative but to make a complaint to the Local Authority, or direct to the Magistrates’ Court.
If several households are affected by a statutory nuisance it may be helpful if the letter is signed by a member of each household affected. Alternatively, each household should consider writing separately. Although the law does not require you to take the above steps, it is likely to strengthen your case if you can show that you have acted in a reasonable manner and have given the person responsible for the nuisance the chance to rectify the situation before resorting to legal measures. Abusive or anonymous letters should not be sent as they are likely to hinder your case rather than help it.
Make a note of the date and times of the nuisance (in the case of a noise, compare the noise with other sounds and degree of disturbance it causes, e.g. the high pitched whine of a saw – unable to hold a conversation). Any notes you make should be written down as soon as possible after the incident. You may have to present them on oath or in Court, so they should be straightforward and legible.
If you think an Environmental Health officer could help, contact the Department by letter outlining the details of the complaint with any notes of incidents collated. You should you tell the Department when and where you can be contacted during the day. An officer will then discuss the nuisance and will usually visit you.
The Council will serve an Abatement Notice if satisfied of the existence of a statutory nuisance. However, in most cases before an Abatement Notice can be served, the Environmental Health Officer will need to witness the actual nuisance.
If the Local Authority cannot act, or if you do not wish to involve the Council, you may wish to complain direct to the Magistrates’ Court or take civil action.
Civil action can be very expensive and it is advisable to seek the advice of a Solicitor. It may be possible to obtain legal advice free or at a reduced cost under the legal advice and assistance scheme.
The Solicitor can also advise about the possibility of claiming legal aid for the proceedings. The Citizens Advice Bureau may also be able to assist you in obtaining legal help.
- You must inform the person responsible for the nuisance and give them a Notice of Intention, specifying that is being complained about. You must give more than 3 days notice of when you intend to approach the Court.Contact the Clerk of the Court and tell him that you wish to make a complaint under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. He will probably make an appointment for you to see him when he will explain the procedure and ask you to produce evidence as described above to show the Magistrates that you have an arguable case.
- If the Magistrates decides that you have an arguable case (you do not have to prove your case at this stage), a summons will be issued and served on the person responsible for the nuisance, stating the date and time arranged for the Court Hearing. He will probably come to Court to defend himself and make counter accusations.
You do not need to have a Solicitor to represent you at the hearing, although you may do so if you wish. If you present your case, the Clerk of the Court will give you advice and guidance or you can contact your Citizens Advice Bureau which may be able to offer assistance.
If the Magistrates decide in your favour, the Court will make an Order requiring the defendant to abate the nuisance and specifying what measures it considers necessary to achieve this. The Order may also prohibit or restrict recurrence of the nuisance, and again may specify now this is to be done. A person who, without reasonable excuse, contravenes any requirements of such an Order is guilty of an offence under the Act and can be fined.