Statutory nuisance

Many public health, environmental protection and housing matters are dealt with using the law of Statutory Nuisance. This deals with the unreasonable interference with the ability of someone to enjoy their property. It is subjective, or a matter of judgement.

There are two ways something may be designated as a statutory nuisance:

  • a "nuisance"
    Not defined in terms of case law but is regarded as material interference with property or comfort.
  • something deemed to be "prejudicial to health"
    Defined as 'injurious or likely to cause injury to health'.

Statutory Nuisance cannot deal with lower level annoyance, frustration or inconvenience and cannot be used for safety related issues. It cannot take into account the needs or wishes of a particularly sensitive person, instead looking at how it would affect any normal member of the public.

Duties on Local Authorities

Local Authorities must:

  • inspect their areas for statutory nuisances which should be dealt with by them;
  • where a complaint of statutory nuisance is made from a someone living in the area, carry out a reasonable investigation
  • where a statutory nuisance is found to exist, serve an abatement notice

Guidance to Accompany the Statutory Nuisance Provisions of the Public Health etc (Scotland) Act 2008 is available from the Scottish Government.

Complaints are investigated under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Environmental health can deal with nuisances such as:

  • Water penetration
  • Odours
  • Drainage issues
  • Insect nuisance
  • Noise
  • Accumulation of refuse

Officers have the power to enter premises to inspect or to remove a statutory nuisance. Where nuisance conditions are witnessed by officers they shall issue a statutory notice to require the removal of the nuisance within a specified timescale.

Failure to comply with a notice may result in work being carried out in default; serving a £150 (domestic)/ £400 (commercial) fixed penalty notice; or referring the matter to the Procurator Fiscal.

Because Statutory Nuisance could apply to such a wide range of situations, responses are prioritised on the type of nuisance concerned. Some minor matters may not be routinely investigated and investigations may only take place if levels of other higher priority work permit and the problem is serious and persistent.