When are building works deemed to cause an actionable nuisance in law?
The Technology and Construction Court has held in Jones and another v Ruth and another that a builder who took more than four years to renovate a terraced house had caused a nuisance to his neighbours.
The TCC considered the question of whether a neighbour can simply be made to endure the disruption as an unavoidable consequence of redevelopment works to a property without remedy.
In the event, the Court found that the builder had taken too long in carrying out the works and had caused a disruption and private nuisance to a neighbour in an adjoining property.
A series of claims were made that the neighbour had been subject to noise and dust; scaffolding was left inappropriately fixed which banged on the claimant's wall; workmen could see into the neighbour's bathroom, patio and garden from the scaffolding, thus, reducing privacy; and they were verbally harassed by the defendants.
Damages of £75,000 were awarded to the neighbours in respect of the nuisance aspect of the claim. The total award amounted to £96,800.
What is deemed unreasonable?
The judge conceded that when lawful building works take place a degree of interference to neighbours will inevitably occur, but not to an unreasonable extent whereby the neighbour experiences a loss of the enjoyment of their property. What is deemed unreasonable would be determined on a case by cases basis.
The Court considered that a year would have been a reasonable duration for the works to be carried out. Generally, building works that are done continuously, not sporadically and ad hoc, for a relatively short period can be tolerated as a reasonable necessity. The TCC held that the building works were thus, incompatible with the neighbours’ reasonable enjoyment of their property.
The case is of interest because, although it does not talk about any new legal principles, it does illustrate how nuisance caused by unreasonable renovation projects in residential areas can be an emotive and, potentially for the developer, a costly subject.
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