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Legal Dictionary

nuisance

Legal Definition of nuisance

Noun

  1. Excessive or unlawful use of one's property to the extent of unreasonable annoyance or inconvenience to a neighbor or to the public. Nuisance is a tort.

Related terms


Definition of nuisance

Etymology

    From Anglo-Norman nusaunce, nussance etc., from Old French nuisance, from nuisire (“to harm”) ( < Latin noceō (“I harm”))

Pronunciation

  • (UK) IPA: /ˈnjuːsəns/, SAMPA: /"nju:.s@ns/
  • (US) IPA: /ˈnuːsəns/, SAMPA: /"nu:.s@ns/
  • Audio (US) [?]

Noun

nuisance (plural nuisances)

  1. A minor annoyance or inconvenience.
  2. A person or thing causing annoyance or inconvenience.
  3. (law) Anything harmful or offensive to the community or to a member of it, for which a legal remedy exists.

    a public nuisance

Synonyms

  • (minor annoyance or inconvenience): annoyance, inconvenience, offense
  • (person or thing causing annoyance or inconvenience): bother, obstacle, pest

Further reading

Nuisance (also spelled nocence, through Fr. noisance, nuisance, from Lat. nocere, "to hurt") is a common law tort. It means that which causes offence, annoyance, trouble or injury. A nuisance can be either public (also "common") or private. A public nuisance was defined by English scholar Sir J. F. Stephen as,

    "an act not warranted by law, or an omission to discharge a legal duty, which act or omission obstructs or causes inconvenience or damage to the public in the exercise of rights common to all His Majesty's subjects".

Private nuisance is the interference with the right of specific people. Nuisance is one of the oldest causes of action known to the common law, with cases framed in nuisance going back almost to the beginning of recorded case law. Nuisance signifies that the "right of quiet enjoyment" is being disrupted to such a degree that a tort is being committed.

Definition

Under the common law, persons in possession of real property (land owners, lease holders etc.) are entitled to the quiet enjoyment of their lands. However this doesn't include visitors or those who aren't considered to have an interest in the land. If a neighbour interferes with that quiet enjoyment, either by creating smells, sounds, pollution or any other hazard that extends past the boundaries of the property, the affected party may make a claim in nuisance.

Legally, the term nuisance is traditionally used in three ways:

  1. to describe an activity or condition that is harmful or annoying to others (e.g., indecent conduct, a rubbish heap or a smoking chimney)
  2. to describe the harm caused by the before-mentioned activity or condition (e.g., loud noises or objectionable odors)
  3. to describe a legal liability that arises from the combination of the two. However, the "interference" was not the result of a neighbor stealing land or trespassing on the land. Instead, it arose from activities taking place on another person's land that affected the enjoyment of that land.

The law of nuisance was created to stop such bothersome activities or conduct when they unreasonably interfered either with the rights of other private landowners (i.e., private nuisance) or with the rights of the general public (i.e., public nuisance)

A public nuisance is an unreasonable interference with the public's right to property. It includes conduct that interferes with public health, safety, peace or convenience. The unreasonableness may be evidenced by statute, or by the nature of the act, including how long, and how bad, the effects of the activity may be.

A private nuisance is simply a violation of one's use of quiet enjoyment of land. It doesn't include trespass.

To be a nuisance, the level of interference must rise above the merely aesthetic. For example: if your neighbour paints their house purple, it may offend you; however, it doesn't rise to the level of nuisance. In most cases, normal uses of a property that can constitute quiet enjoyment cannot be restrained in nuisance either. For example, the sound of a crying baby may be annoying, but it is an expected part of quiet enjoyment of property and does not constitute a nuisance.

Any affected property owner has standing to sue for a private nuisance. If a nuisance is widespread enough, but yet has a public purpose, it is often treated at law as a public nuisance. Owners of interests in real property (whether owners, lessors, or holders of an easement or other interest) have standing only to bring private nuisance suits.

References:

  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



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