A legal expert from The University of Law (ULaw) has warned Christmas lovers that their light displays could land them on the naughty list this year, thanks to a little-known law and something of a legal grey area.
Aruna Verma, Associate Professor and Campus Dean at ULaw, explains the rules around ‘Statutory Nuisance’, and what to do if it affects you this holiday season.
Aruna says: “Statutory Nuisance refers to activities that either create a risk to someone’s health or affect people’s use of ‘enjoyment of land’. What this means is anything that could be negatively affecting your neighbours or members of the public could technically fall under this law, which would lead to repercussions from your local authority.
“There are six main categories that could constitute a Statutory Nuisance, and these are smoke, dust, light, litter, odour and noise.”
With just days to go until the big event, thousands of households across the country are covered in Christmas displays, with lighting and decorations becoming increasingly advanced.
For those wondering how far they can take their Christmas displays, Aruna warns that what constitutes a Statutory Nuisance is something of a legal grey area.
“There isn’t a set legal definition of what can be deemed a Statutory Nuisance. When it comes to lights, unlike noise complaints, there is no set level to be aware of. While this does mean the rules are generally a little more flexible, it also makes it difficult to know how much is too much – which could leave some people at risk of intervention from their local authority.”, Aruna says.
There are several factors that a local authority will consider when investigating a complaint under the Statutory Nuisance Act. Predominantly these will be whether the offence affects someone’s health or use of a property. The time of day when the nuisance occurs and the length of time will also be taken into consideration, so keep these in mind to ensure your Christmas display stays above board.
If you’re concerned that your display has gone too far this year, or a neighbour’s is causing you problems, the best course of action is to try and resolve this with the neighbours first and foremost.
Aruna says: “Most residential complaints such as these can be resolved with a quick chat between neighbours. Try and reach a compromise that works for you both and then hopefully there won’t be any need for legal intervention.
“However, if you’re concerned about speaking to the neighbours or if it can’t be amicably resolved, the next step would be to speak to your local authority.”