Private nuisance

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Private nuisance-

Substantial and unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of private land. Requires some kind of fault and a certain kind of damage which should not be too remote.

Hunter v Canary Wharf- 'Private nuisances are of three kinds. They are 1) nuisance by encroachment on a neighbours land 2) nuisance by direct physical injury to neighbours land and 3) nuisance by interference with a neighbours quiet enjoyment of his land.'

Sedley Denfield v O'Callaghan- 'a balance has to be maintained between the right of the occupier to do what he likes with his own, and the right of his neighbour not to be interfered with.'

Cambridge Water Co- 'principle of give and take as between neighbouring occupiers of land.'

Who can sue? 

Claimants- Hunter v Canary Wharf- 'an action in private nuisance will only lie at the suit of a person who has a right to the land affected.' 

Dobson v Thames Water- impact of HRA 1998 A8 ECHR.

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Private nuisance

Who can be sued? 

Creators, occupiers and landlords- Smith v Scott. Natural nuisances- Leakey v National Trust.

Elements of the tort- 

  • substantial and unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of private land causing damage.

Factors relevant to unreasonableness- locality, extent, duration and frequency, social utility, pracitcality of avoiding interference, malice and sensititivity of claimant. 

Locality- Sturges v Bridgman- when considering a nuisance 'in reference to its circumstance.'

Extent- Walter v Selfe

Duration and frequency- Barr v Biffa- smell was for five years. 

Social utility- if it has good social use it may be allowed. Miller v Jackson- golf club was seen as good for the community despite nuisance.

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Private nuisance

Practicality of avoiding interference- can you take reasonable steps to avoid? Leakey v National Trust. 

Malice- Hollywood Silver Fox Farm- more likely to be nuisance. 

Sensitivity of claimant- Cooke v Forbes- his coconut business was not deemed sensitive. If found as sensitive it is unlikely to be nuisance.

Remoteness (foreseeablity of damage)- Cambridge Water Co v East Counties Leather 1994. The damage was not foreseeable so couldnt be held liable. 


Inevitable accident- Nichol v Marsland 1876

Statutory authority- Barr v Biffa had statute enabling them to carry out their business there.

Allen v Gulf Oil Refining- created noise but had statute allowing it.

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Prescription- if you have been doing the practise constituting the nuisance for 20 yeras then you are allowed to continue. Tried to argue it in Sturges v Bridgman as he had lived there for 20 years, but it hadnt been a nuisance for 20 years. 

Coming to the nuisance? If you know about the nuisance and then move there you cannot complain about it. Coventry v Lawrence and Sturges v Bridgman. 


Abatement- the reduction or removal of a nuisance- issuing a notice for it to stop. 

Injunction- a court order meaning you have to refrain from doing certain acts.

Damages- S50 Supreme Court Act 1982-allows courts to award damages in lieu of an injunction

Shelfer v City of London Electric Lighting Co- 'In my opinion it may be stated as good working rule that if the injury is small, and one which is capable of being estimated in money, and one which can be adequately compensated by a small money payment, and in the case is one whihc it would be oppresive to the defendant to grant an injunction, then damage may be given.'

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