Last updated 19 June 2016

Generally, persons occupying land (owners or lessees) are entitled to the quiet enjoyment of the land. This does not extend to people who are only visitors.

If a neighbour unreasonably interferes with that quiet enjoyment, including by creating smells, sounds, pollution or any other hazard that extends past the boundaries of the property, the interference may amount to nuisance.

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.

Public nuisances, particularly those affecting the environment, may result in criminal charges or may be controlled by other laws.

Private nuisance

Private nuisance is the unlawful interference with a person’s use or enjoyment of their own land or of a right connected with that land. A private nuisance can include:

  • noise
  • odour
  • smoke
  • vibrations
  • dust
  • some activity or intrusion that causes a reasonable fear for an occupier’s safety (e.g. overhanging tree branches, aerial spraying or shooting on an adjacent rifle range)
  • obstruction of rights of way
  • obstruction of water supply
  • interference with support to land or a wall
  • blocking out a neighbour’s light, when there is an obligation to provide access to light.

In order to be able to take legal action in relation to nuisance, the interference needs to be substantial and unreasonable.

Police or the local councils have the power to investigate limited kinds of nuisance complaints, take action to prevent relevant ongoing nuisance and impose fines for breaches of nuisance laws.

In addition, private nuisances may give rise to a right by one person to make a claim requesting damages or an injunction to prevent the ongoing nuisance. This is known as a common law action in nuisance.

Legislation may restrict a person’s ability to bring an action in nuisance. For instance, legislation protects the operators of the Milton Brewery from actions for nuisance (arising from the emission of aerosols, fumes, light, noise, odour, particles or smoke) in relation to residences which are part of a development application made after 27 April 2009 (Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (Qld)). As parts of Queensland become more densely populated, it is likely that other industries or activities may also be given similar legislative protection.