Health and Nuisance Complaints
There are times when one person's enjoyment of their property is decreased because of another person’s activity 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 and Well Being Act 2008 (the Act).
When a nuisance becomes an offence
The offence of nuisance applies to nuisances that are, or are liable to be, dangerous to health or offensive. Offensive means toxic, annoying or harmful 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
A nuisance may be related to a state, condition, or activity that may be considered offensive or dangerous to health. The Act requires that consideration may be given to the degree of offensiveness or threat but not to how many people are affected, or may be affected, by it.
Report a Nuisance
If a person believes that a nuisance exists they may notify Council who must investigate. If upon investigation a nuisance is found to exist, the Council must take action to remedy the nuisance.
If Council is of the opinion that the matter is better settled privately, the person who notified the council of the nuisance will be advised of available methods for settlement.
Complaints may easily be solved by approaching the owner/occupier in a polite 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 Council.
The following points need to be considered when discussing your concerns:
- 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.
The Department of Justice funds the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria for people who find themselves in a situation of dispute or conflict. This service guarantees advice, consultation and mediation. The Dispute Settlement Service is free of charge, voluntary and operates under strict confidentiality.
Council's Power of Entry and Inspection
The Act gives any authorized officer 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 Resolve a 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. The notice may specify steps that must be taken to prevent the recurrence of the nuisance and the time frame 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.