It is rare for a commercial property to stand alone, without any neighbours. Most will have other shops, industrial units, offices, or homes adjacent. Where there are neighbouring properties there is always the potential for private nuisance claims to arise. Nuisance is an interference with another’s property rights. It occurs when a party does something on their own land which they are lawfully entitled to do, but which becomes a nuisance when the consequences of their actions extend to their neighbour, causing interference with the enjoyment of property, or damage. “Enjoyment” here means the affected party’s day to day use of their property being adversely affected.
The range of situations that can amount to nuisance is widely varied. It can be caused by noise, by fumes and odours, by water and other substances running off land onto neighbouring land, by animals escaping, by vehicles, and it can be between neighbours horizontally, and vertically such as different floors of commercial or mixed-use premises.
Clearly not all businesses, especially industrial and agricultural, have processes that are free of noise, smell etc, so there must be a threshold over which something is an actionable nuisance in law, otherwise no occupier would be able to go about its business without being at risk of a nuisance claim. Nuisance is all about reasonable use of land, and additionally, a nuisance must be substantial to be actionable in law. A court would consider on a case by case basis whether a nuisance is actionable. It would consider, among others, the following factors:
What is reasonable and actionable in a quiet residential area will be different to what is reasonable in an industrial area
Noise nuisances are more likely to cause interference at night.
Something is more likely to be an actionable nuisance if it goes on longer/more regularly
A court will not take into account any particular sensitivities of a claimant, it will base reasonableness on the effect of the nuisance on a reasonable claimant
It is usually the occupier of the property that the claim for nuisance lies against, not the landlord or owner. There are exceptional circumstances when the landlord or owner can be held liable. Liability depends upon their having authorised the nuisance or participated directly in it, and is not easy to establish.
The remedy for private nuisance is usually an injunction ordering the interfering party to cease the activity that is causing the nuisance. Damages might also be appropriate, for example, the costs of remedying any physical damage caused to the claimant’s land by the nuisance.