I am using the term “nuisance” which in law is defined as “an unlawful interference with a person’s use or enjoyment of land or of some right over, or in connection, with it”.
Like any claim in law, evidence is key. The potential problem with a private law claim is that the process of determining what level of noise constitutes a nuisance is subjective. Noise measuring devices can be used, but a factor which is also important is the nature of the locality.
Do you live in a quiet residential street, which would be good for your case, or are you close to late-opening businesses (which is less helpful)? That said, just because a building has permission to open late, such as a pub, does not mean they have permission to inflict unreasonable noise on their neighbours.
If you can prove noise nuisance the normal remedy from the court is an injunction to restrain the activity causing nuisance as well as damages for the past nuisance, but the court also has discretion to award damages in lieu of an injunction. In such cases, the damages will reflect the reduction in value of the complainant’s property resulting from the nuisance.
You say the noise has gone on for four years already. If you let it go on for another 16 years so that it becomes 20 altogether, this can establish a right to commit noise by long use, which would give your noisy neighbours a valid defence to carry on.
Like any litigation, there is a risk you will not succeed. Accordingly, I recommend you see if you have ‘Legal Expenses Cover’ with your home insurance as that may pay the cost of your initial legal advice. It is after all in the interests of your insurer to protect the value of your home.
Seeking a remedy in the public law sphere will be less risky to you in terms of costs. Local authorities have a duty to deal with so-called “statutory nuisances” under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. For noise to amount to a statutory nuisance, it must be “prejudicial to health”.
A local authority can serve a noise abatement notice if they are satisfied that a noise problem amounts to a statutory nuisance. The notice may require that the noise be stopped altogether or limited to certain times of day. The notice can be served on the person responsible for the noise, who then has 21 days to appeal.
Whilst noise nuisance is generally treated as an environmental health matter, to be handled by the relevant department in the local council, the police can deal with a complaint if the noise amounts to a breach of the peace, or where it is associated with threatening, violent or other anti-social behaviour. In very serious cases of anti-social behaviour, the police and local councils can work together to take action against residents under Part 1 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
I feel very sorry for you putting up with this daily trauma and hope the options set out will help you get it sorted.
Ask a Lawyer is written by Gary Rycroft, solicitor at Joseph A Jones & Co, and published twice a month on Mondays. Email your questions to email@example.com