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Noise, smoke, smell or light problems

What to do if you are affected by a noise, smoke, smell or light problem

By law, we can take action on problems causing a 'statutory nuisance'. To decide if this is the case, we need to understand:

  • how bad the problem is
  • how long the problem has lasted
  • how often it happens
  • if the nuisance happens on purpose
  • if it interferes with the average person's reasonable enjoyment of their property

Common complaints are about nuisance from:

  • Noise - e.g from dogs barking, noisy neighbours, alarms sounding
  • Smoke - e.g from bonfires
  • Dust - e.g from building or demolition works
  • Smell - e.g excessive cooking odours from restaurants
  • Artificial light - e.g when lights are too bright or being shone into someone's window

Report a problem

You can report a problem that is affecting you by:

If it is safe to, you should try to politely speak to the person or company that is causing the problem before contacting us. You may find that this solves the problem. If you do this, stay calm and explain the effect the nuisance is having. Pick a time where you think you are both able to be reasonable about the situation. 

What happens when you make a complaint

We will give you information explaining the law and how we work.

You may be asked to keep a diary for 14 days. This helps us to find out:

  • the dates and times of the problem
  • how long the problem is happening for
  • the effect it has on you

You must keep the diary as events take place, not afterwards. Detailed evidence will help us to understand how bad the problem is. 

We will review the diary to see if there is a 'statutory nuisance'. Monitoring may be needed to gather further evidence.

At this stage, we will tell the person causing the alleged nuisance about the complaint. We will discuss the problem with them and explain that the alleged nuisance may be monitored. We will not give details of the person who complained. 

If it is proven that there is a statutory nuisance, we will either:

  • seek an informal resolution; or
  • issue an 'abatement notice'

An abatement notice is a legal notice that requires the person to stop the nuisance.

If the problem continues, we will aim to collect evidence showing the abatement notice has been breached. If proven, we will take the person to court. At this stage, you and any witnesses may need to give a statement and evidence in court.

Taking your own action

In some cases, we may not be able to help or gather enough evidence to take action. However, you can take private action against the person causing the nuisance.

Mediation may help to resolve the complaint if initial talks have failed.

As a last resort, you can take your complaint to the Magistrates Court. It is quite simple to do and you don't need a solicitor. 

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