Health and nuisance complaints
What is a nuisance?
There are times when one person's enjoyment of their property is decreased because of another person’s use and enjoyment of a neighbouring property.
This disruption could be caused by activities which create noise, odour or emissions.
Some of these 'nuisances' can become dangerous to health or offensive, and may be an offence under the Public Health & Well Being Act 2008.
When does a nuisance become an offence?
The offence of nuisance applies to nuisances that are, or are liable to be, dangerous to health or offensive.
“Offensive” means noxious, annoying or injurious to personal comfort.
“Nuisances” may arise from or be caused by:
- any building or structure
- any land, water or land covered by water
- any animal, bird or pest animal within the meaning of the Act
- any refuse
- any noise or emission
- any state, condition or activity or other matter or thing.
In determining whether a state, condition or activity is a nuisance or is liable to be, dangerous to health or offensive (in accordance with the Act):
- regard may be had to the degree of offensiveness of the state, condition or activity; but
- regard must not be had to the number of persons affected or that may be affected by the state, condition or activity.
What can be done about a nuisance?
Contact the person causing the alleged nuisance
Many complaints may easily be solved by approaching the owner/occupier in a neighbourly manner and discussing your concerns with them.
In most cases the solution can be found between neighbours and should be sought prior to lodging a complaint with Loddon Shire Council.
The following points need to be considered:
- the owner/occupier may not realise that the activity is causing an annoyance to other people
- the problem may only occur when the owner/occupier is not home
- the owner/occupier may not hear/smell the problem from various areas within the house
- the owner/occupier may be a very sound sleeper and not be woken.
Lodge a nuisance complaint with Council
If a person believes that a nuisance exists, that person may notify the relevant council.
In notifying Council you must be prepared to:
- provide your name, address and contact details, anonymous nuisance complaints cannot be investigated
- provide the details of the complaint including the frequency and time that the alleged nuisance is occurring
- collect additional information to assist in the investigation of the nuisance
- act as a witness in any legal proceedings that may arise from your complaint.
The council will investigate any notice of a nuisance.
If, upon investigation, a nuisance is found to exist, the council will:
- take action to abate the nuisance; or
- if the council is of the opinion that the matter is better settled privately, advise the person notifying the council of the nuisance of available methods for settlement; (in accordance with the Act).
As stated earlier, it is strongly recommended that you approach the person causing the nuisance in the first instance, coming to Council without approaching the person causing the nuisance can inflame a situation unnecessarily.
It is also important to note that complaints received by Council are treated in strict confidence, however many people will make assumptions regarding the identity of person that has lodged, a complaint with Council. In many cases these assumptions are correct, however Council will maintain the confidentiality of any complaint.
Council's powers of entry and inspection
The Act gives “any authorised officer” or the Secretary powers to enter and inspect premises for the purposes of examining the existence of a nuisance, investigating contraventions of the Act and “generally enforcing the provisions of the Act”.
Notice to abate nuisance
If the council is satisfied that a nuisance exists, it may serve an improvement notice or prohibition notice on the person who is causing the nuisance (or, if that person cannot be found, the owner or occupier of the relevant land); (in accordance with the Act);
The Notice may specify steps to be taken to prevent the recurrence of the nuisance and the time within which these steps are to be taken.
If the person fails to comply with the Notice or if the nuisance is likely to recur, the council may summon the person to appear before the Magistrates Court, which may order the person to comply with the Notice or carry out works to prevent the recurrence of the nuisance.
How do I make a nuisance complaint?
Contact the Environmental Health department in writing by either mail to PO Box 21 Wedderburn VIC 3518 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org remembering to supply all the details above. You will be contacted should any further explanation is required and advised of the outcome once a resolution is found or if referral is required.
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