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What is a statutory nuisance?

A nuisance is something that unreasonably and substantially interferes with someone’s enjoyment of their land. Someone experiencing a nuisance can bring a legal claim to enforce their rights and attempt to have the courts order the nuisance to stop.

A statutory nuisance is a certain type of nuisance, claims for which are covered by legislation (ie the Environmental Protection Act 1990). It is something that affects someone’s health. Not every type of nuisance is a statutory nuisance. As opposed to ‘common law nuisance’, only a certain specific list of nuisances set out in legislation are statutory. To fall within the list of statutory nuisance, an activity needs to be, or be likely to be:

  • harmful to health or likely to be harmful to health, or

  • a nuisance (ie it needs to unreasonably and substantially interfere with the use or enjoyment of a property or the comfort or quality of life of a group of people)

An especially vulnerable person cannot claim statutory nuisance for an activity that would not ordinarily affect most people. However, if a nuisance that would affect the ordinary public has severe effects on particular people, the fact that they are more vulnerable than most will not prevent them from bringing a claim.

What is considered a statutory nuisance?

Issues that might be caught by the definition of statutory nuisance include:

  • the physical state of a premises (eg a neighbouring property)

  • smoke, fumes, or gases emitted from a premises, a vehicle, machinery or equipment 

  • dust, steam, smells, or similar on industrial, trade or business premises

  • any accumulation or deposit which is prejudicial to health or a nuisance (eg rubbish)

  • noise coming from a premises or from a vehicle, machinery or equipment in a street

Examples of specific occurrences that have been found to be statutory nuisances include:

  • loud music being played every week during the early evening and into the night

  • dogs left at home all day and continuously barking for several minutes when someone walks by

  • a business installing a new machine without noise insulation

Examples of specific occurrences that have been found not to be statutory nuisances include:

  • a person carrying out DIY during the day and at weekends over a few weeks

  • noise from children playing on a trampoline in their garden

  • dust from a construction site where reasonable control methods were being used

How is a statutory nuisance dealt with?

The relevant local authority (eg via an environmental health officer (EHO)) is responsible for deciding whether or not a statutory nuisance is occurring or is likely to occur. This involves investigating whether the matters complained of are a nuisance or likely to cause damage to health.

The local authority has a duty to inspect properties in its area for statutory nuisance and deal with complaints it receives about statutory nuisance.

Once an EHO has confirmed that a statutory nuisance exists or is likely to exist, they have a legal duty to take action.

An EHO must take ‘such steps as are reasonably practicable' to investigate your matter. The EHO may write to or visit the person causing the nuisance asking them to take any steps necessary to mitigate the current issue. 

Only statutory nuisances can be dealt with by the local authority. Action can also be taken by the person suffering the nuisance. This contrasts with common law nuisance, where action must be taken by the person suffering the nuisance. To understand more about the differences between common law and statutory nuisances, read our guide on Neighbour Disputes.

If you are a tenant, your landlord’s failure to carry out repairs might in some cases constitute a statutory nuisance. However, the local authority will only be able to take action against this if you are a tenant in private rented accommodation or a housing association tenant. If you are a local authority tenant this option will not work because a local authority cannot take action against itself.

Abatement notice

If the local authority is satisfied that a nuisance exists or is likely to occur, it must issue an abatement notice to the person responsible.

The abatement notice may require whoever's responsible to:

  • stop the activity, or 

  • limit the activity to certain times to avoid causing a nuisance

If you receive an abatement notice that you don’t agree with, you can appeal it to a magistrates court within 21 days of receiving it.

If the person responsible for a statutory nuisance cannot be found, the notice must be served on the owner or occupier of the premises. If the nuisance is caused by unattended vehicles, machinery, or equipment in the street and the person responsible cannot be found, the notice can be served by fixing the notice to the vehicle, machinery, or equipment.

If the nuisance gives rise to an emergency, for example, a ceiling being about to collapse, the local authority can instead serve a notice saying that the local authority will take action themselves (eg by repairing the ceiling).

Failure to comply with an abatement notice

Failure to comply with an abatement notice without reasonable excuse is a criminal offence. Penalties from the court include a lump sum fee and fines for each day the person causing the nuisance fails to comply.

Fines on successful prosecution for nuisance conducted on other (eg residential) premises can go up level 5 on the standard scale (£5,000 as of 10 July 2023). Daily fines can also be charged of an amount equal to one tenth of that level (eg £500) for each day on which failure to comply continues after conviction.

Where the conviction is for breach of an abatement notice for an offence on industrial, trade, or business premises, a higher fine may be imposed. The maximum fine on summary conviction is £40,000 in Scotland.


Where an abatement notice relates to activities carried on at a trade or business premises, in some circumstances you can use the best practicable means (BPM) defence. BPM involves having regard to local conditions and circumstances, the current state of technical knowledge, and financial implications.

There are also specific defences for noise and nuisance complaints on construction sites and in areas where there are registered noise levels.

 If the nuisance in question arises on industrial, trade or business premises, the defence does not apply in respect of:

  • the physical state of the premises is prejudicial to health or a nuisance

  • dust, steam, smell, or similar on industrial, trade or business premises are prejudicial to health or a nuisance

  • any accumulation or deposit that is prejudicial to health or a nuisance

  • any animal kept in such a place or manner as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance

  • any insects emanating from relevant industrial, trade or business premises and being prejudicial to health or a nuisance

  • any noise emitted from premises to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance

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