Last updated 19 July 2016
The law of nuisance in Queensland is contained across a variety of Acts of parliament and local laws but, in most cases, reference must be had to the common law.
It is recommended that people affected by nuisance speak to their local council, police or seek legal advice before taking action.
Statutory nuisance laws
Local governments are responsible for investigating and dealing with nuisance complaints relating to residential premises, provided that there is a local or state law in place about the issue.
Complaints relating to contaminants released into the environment by activities such as mining or manufacturing may be dealt with by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.
Difficulties can arise where residences are used as businesses (e.g. the parking or repair of large trucks on acreage). As suburban areas are spreading in South East Queensland, some residential development is occurring next to industrial estates or livestock activities. The industrial activity is usually pre-existing and often subject to relevant approvals. In such circumstances, residents may have to accept living with some of the consequences of the industrial activity (e.g. noise in the early hours or odour).
The nuisance laws are complaint driven, which means a complaint must be made before a problem will be investigated. If a person making a complaint is concerned about protecting their identity, it is necessary to check with the complaint-handling body whether particular details of the complaint will be disclosed to the person or company being complained about.
Breaches of nuisance laws may result in penalties including warning notices, abatement notices and fines. If a notice or fine is issued to a person, they will normally have a right to appeal.
To lodge a complaint, a person should call the relevant local council for residential premises issues and the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection for activities associated with mining or manufacturing.
If there is no relevant authority or the relevant authority cannot provide the assistance required, a person affected by nuisance may choose to pursue their own legal action against the person or organisation causing the nuisance. This is normally a common law nuisance action.
It is always prudent to check with the local council and/or the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection before legal action is undertaken. Making a complaint is normally free but legal action is not. Generally, each council has a different set of local laws. Even if a type of nuisance is not discussed below, it is important to consult the local authority before deciding whether or not to pursue legal action.
Common law actions in nuisance
In addition to penalties for breaches of nuisance laws, a nuisance may give rise to a right to sue a person causing a nuisance. If an activity is a substantial and unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of land, it may be possible to bring nuisance proceedings. The person who legally occupies the land is usually the only person who can sue.
A person who creates a nuisance or, in some cases, a person who knows about the nuisance but does nothing to stop it can be sued. A person bringing a nuisance action can ask the court to make orders to stop the nuisance (with a legal action called an injunction), prevent it from occurring again in the future and perhaps compensate the person for any losses they have already suffered. Where injunctive relief (stopping the activity that constitutes nuisance) is sought, proceedings must be commenced in the District or Supreme Court, attracting the risk of a costs order if proceedings are not successful. Legal advice should be sought before commencing this sort of legal action.