How to stop noisy neighbours- section 82 Environmental Protection Act 1990
Suffering from inconsiderate neighbours can be a householder’s worst nightmare. The stress, anxiety and plain suffering that this can cause can sometimes be immeasurable. Local authorities do their best to help but often their services can be inadequate either due to the nature of the nuisance, staffing problems or simple inefficiency.
The good news is that that householders can seek a remedy from the Courts without having to go through their local council. It is a quick, effective measure that is backed by criminal sanctions if the nuisance continues.
You are entitled to apply to the local magistrates’ court under s82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to apply for an order requiring a person responsible for causing a nuisance to stop whatever behaviour or situation that gives rise to the nuisance. This is often called a nuisance order. Application can be made by individuals or companies and can be used against any kind of statutory nuisance.
These orders have many benefits; if the application is successful, it gives rise to a Court Order which will prevent the nuisance and which, if breached, will give rise to a criminal offence by the person causing the nuisance. It is also a fast process that does not involve having to go through your local council, which can often take months. It is also relatively quick, simple and cheap when compared with alternative measures such as launching civil proceedings for common law nuisance.
Applying to the local magistrates’ court under s82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 also has the advantage of putting the applicant at a very limited risk of paying the other side’s costs. This is due to the fact that if the application is unsuccessful, the defendant’s costs will be met from public funds (unless the application is meritless or vexatious). This is unlike other civil remedies for nuisance abatement where the complainant, if unsuccessful, will normally have to pay the defendant’s legal costs.
Stopping the nuisance- what can be prevented?
The categories of nuisance that can be prevented are called statutory nuisances and are outlined in section 79(1) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990; these are the following:
1. The physical state of any premises (this includes land and even vessels);
2. Smoke from premises;
3. Fumes or gases from private dwellings;
4. Dust, steam or smell from businesses;
5. Any accumulation or deposit;
6. The keeping of animals (where it amounts to a nuisance);
7. Insects from businesses premises;
8. Artificial light;
9. Noise, including vibration;
10. Noise from a vehicle, machinery or equipment in the street;
11. Any other matter under the Public Health Act 1936 declared to be a statutory nuisance
The most common complaint by far that I deal with is that of noisy neighbours. This is often in the context of living in a flat or semi detached house but can be any kind of noise nuisance including such matters as:
- Playing loud or amplified music
- Parties or anti social drinking
- Barking dogs
- The use of machinery or power tools
Who can apply?
The applicant will be a “Person aggrieved” by the nuisance. This has been widely interpreted by the Court and means that there should be some genuine connection and prejudicial impact. A householder will nearly always be able to apply regardless of their status within the property.
In the case of Lucy Watkins v Aged Merchant Seamen’s Homes and others  EWHC 2410, it was held that whether a “person aggrieved” was always a matter of fact and degree. An occupant of a premises would usually be a “person aggrieved” because they would risk suffering prejudice to health if the premises were in such a state as to constitute a statutory nuisance. The question of standing had to be determined as at the time the complaint was made. If a complainant had standing when they made the complaint, they could not normally lose their position.
What is the legal test?
Any applicant must prove that a statutory nuisance exists or that it has been abated, but is likely to recur on the same premises
What is the process to stop a nuisance?
Before applying to the Court the applicant must first give notice in writing to the person causing the nuisance of their intention to bring proceeding in which they should specify the nuisance complained of, preferably in some detail, and should give not less than three days’ notice for statutory noise nuisance and not less than 21 days’ notice for other nuisances. Once the written notice has been given, the applicant may lay a complaint at the local magistrates’ court.
The Court will then issue a summons to the person or business causing the nuisance giving notice of a hearing date. Prior to the hearing the applicant should put together all their evidence in admissible form and serve it upon the person who has been summonsed.
There will then be a hearing in the magistrates’ court in which the Court will determine whether there has been a nuisance. The burden of proof is on the complainant to prove the nuisance exists or that it has been abated, but is likely to recur on the same premises beyond reasonable doubt. This is a high standard of proof so it is vital that compelling evidence is put forward. You may wish to seek expert legal representation in order to ensure that the evidence is to the requisite standard and in admissible form.
What kind of order can be made?
If the matter is proved then the magistrates’ court are obliged to make an order against those causing the nuisance; this can be:
- To require the nuisance to be stopped either immediately or within a specified time, the Court can also order necessary works to be carried out to prevent the nuisance; and/or
- To forbid the nuisance reoccurring, and to require, within a specified time, any works necessary to prevent such a recurrence.
The Court also has the power to impose a fine on the defendant and make a compensation order of up to £5,000 for any loss, personal injury or damage. The Court may also order the reasonably incurred costs of bringing the claim, including legal costs.
What if the nuisance does not stop after the order is made or the order is disobeyed? Proceedings for breach of a nuisance order
One of the reasons why these orders are so effective is that the breach of an order is a criminal offence. If carries the sanctions of the criminal courts and the defendant will receive a criminal record. The defendant will be made liable upon conviction to a potentially unlimited fine and/or to a further fine of an amount equal to one-tenth of the greater of £5,000 or level 4 on the standard scale for each day on which the offence continues after the conviction. This is a formidable punishment indeed and the threat of it will, in most cases, cause the nuisance to stop.
Assistance in making a s82 Environmental Protection Act application
Although designed to be simple, the process of launching a s82 application can be somewhat daunting. There is a body of paperwork to be filled out and evidence must be gathered and served in an admissible format. It is also important that the application is presented in its best possible light in order to ensure that the application is granted. Filling in court forms correctly, making sure that court rules regarding how evidence should be submitted are complied with and the best presentation of the evidence can make the difference between a successful or an unsuccessful application. The Court will have regard to previous caselaw (previous court decisions) concerning s82 issues, so it can be beneficial to instruct an expert barrister to assist in giving the application the best possible chance of succeeding.
Quentin Hunt is a s82 Environmental Protection Act lawyer who has over 2 decades experience in dealing with these sorts of applications. He accepts instructions through solicitors or directly from members of the public. He is able to assist in all stages of the process from the initial ‘cease and desist’ stage through to effective representation in Court. He also has experience in defending such claims and brings his experience from ‘both sides of the fence’ in making sure that he achieves the best possible results for his clients. If you require help or assistance in a court action against noisy neighbours or any s82 application case then you may contact Quentin for a confidential, no obligation conversation about your case.