Define: Coming To The Nuisance

Coming To The Nuisance
Coming To The Nuisance
Quick Summary of Coming To The Nuisance

“Coming to the nuisance” is a legal concept that refers to a situation where a person knowingly moves into an area where a nuisance already exists and then seeks legal action against the party responsible for the nuisance. The concept is based on the principle that individuals should not be allowed to benefit from a nuisance they have willingly exposed themselves to. Courts often dismiss such claims, as it is considered unfair to hold the party responsible for the nuisance liable for damages or to force them to cease their activities.

Full Definition Of Coming To The Nuisance

The doctrine of “coming to the nuisance” occupies a significant place within the common law of nuisance, primarily addressing conflicts between pre-existing activities and new developments. Rooted in British jurisprudence, this principle arises when a plaintiff, who has moved to an area already subjected to a nuisance, seeks legal redress against the continuance of such activities. This overview aims to delineate the historical evolution, judicial interpretations, and contemporary relevance of “coming to the nuisance” within British law.

Historical Context

The concept of nuisance, a tortious wrong, has long been established in English law, providing remedies for interferences with the use and enjoyment of land. Historically, nuisances were divided into two categories: public nuisances, affecting the community at large, and private nuisances, impacting individual landowners. The origins of “coming to the nuisance” can be traced back to early common law, where courts often had to balance the interests of established land users against those of newcomers.

Key Judicial Precedents

Several landmark cases have shaped the understanding and application of “coming to the nuisance” within British jurisprudence. Notable among these is the case of Sturges v Bridgman (1879), which remains a cornerstone of nuisance law. In this case, a confectioner had been operating noisily for years before a doctor set up a consulting room nearby. When the doctor sued for nuisance, the court held that the confectioner’s activities constituted a nuisance, despite their longstanding nature. This case underscored that the plaintiff’s prior awareness of the nuisance was not a bar to their claim.

Similarly, the case of Miller v Jackson (1977) involved a cricket club whose activities were challenged by new residents. The Court of Appeal, while acknowledging the significance of cricket as a public benefit, nonetheless upheld the plaintiffs’ right to relief, illustrating the judiciary’s inclination to prioritise individual property rights over established nuisances.

Principles Underlying “Coming to the Nuisance”

  • Balancing Interests: The doctrine necessitates a careful balance between the rights of existing land users and those of newcomers. The courts typically consider factors such as the character of the locality, the nature of the nuisance, and the extent of the interference.
  • Character of the Locality: As elucidated in Sturges v Bridgman, the nature of the locality plays a crucial role in determining whether an activity constitutes a nuisance. An industrial activity may be acceptable in a predominantly industrial area but may be deemed a nuisance in a residential neighbourhood.
  • Reasonableness of Use: The reasonableness of the defendant’s use of their property is another critical consideration. This involves an assessment of whether the defendant’s activities are a necessary and ordinary use of land or whether they impose an unreasonable burden on neighbours.
  • Temporal Priority: While the temporal priority of the nuisance-causing activity is considered, it is not decisive. Courts have repeatedly held that just because a nuisance existed before the plaintiff’s arrival, it does not necessarily negate the plaintiff’s right to relief.

Defences and Limitations

Defendants in nuisance cases often invoke the doctrine of “coming to the nuisance” as a defence, arguing that the plaintiff was aware of the nuisance before moving to the area. However, British courts have generally been reluctant to accept this as an absolute defence. Instead, they focus on the reasonableness of the interference and the plaintiff’s right to enjoy their property.

In addition to “coming to the nuisance”, defendants may rely on other defences such as statutory authority, prescription, and contributory negligence. Statutory authority, for instance, provides a robust defence when the nuisance-causing activity is authorised by legislation. A prescription, akin to an easement, may apply if the nuisance has continued openly and without interruption for a specified period, typically 20 years.

Contemporary Relevance

In modern times, the doctrine of “coming to the nuisance” has evolved to address new challenges posed by urbanisation and environmental concerns. The proliferation of residential developments near industrial sites, airports, and entertainment venues has led to an increase in nuisance claims. In such contexts, courts continue to apply the principles established in earlier cases while also considering contemporary standards and expectations.

For example, in the case of Coventry v Lawrence (2014), the Supreme Court reaffirmed that the mere fact of coming to the nuisance does not automatically bar a claim. The case involved a couple who had moved near a motor sports stadium and later sued for noise nuisance. The court emphasised the importance of the character of the locality and the reasonableness of the use, ultimately ruling in favour of the plaintiffs. This decision underscored that while temporal priority is relevant, it is not determinative.

Environmental Considerations

The growing emphasis on environmental protection has further complicated the application of “coming to the nuisance”. Courts now increasingly consider the broader environmental impact of nuisance-causing activities. This is particularly evident in cases involving pollution, noise, and other environmental nuisances. The integration of environmental law principles into nuisance law has led to a more nuanced approach, balancing individual property rights with collective environmental interests.

Case Study: Wind Farms and Renewable Energy Projects

The expansion of renewable energy projects, such as wind farms, has given rise to new nuisance disputes. Residents living near wind farms often complain about noise and visual pollution. In such cases, courts must weigh the benefits of renewable energy against the impact on local residents. The doctrine of “coming to the nuisance” is frequently invoked in these disputes, with defendants arguing that plaintiffs moved to the area knowing about the wind farm.

The case of Andrews v Ministry of Defence (2016) exemplifies this. Residents living near a military base housing a wind farm sued for nuisance, citing noise and visual impact. The court acknowledged the plaintiffs’ concerns but ultimately ruled in favour of the defendants, highlighting the significant public interest in renewable energy. This case illustrates the delicate balancing act courts must perform, considering both individual rights and societal benefits.

Policy Implications and Future Directions

The continued evolution of “coming to the nuisance” has significant policy implications. As urbanisation intensifies and environmental concerns become more prominent, the doctrine will likely face further scrutiny and reinterpretation. Policymakers and legislators may need to consider additional regulations to address the complexities arising from modern nuisance disputes.

One potential direction is the establishment of zoning laws and planning regulations that clearly delineate acceptable land uses. Such measures could help prevent conflicts by ensuring that residential developments are not situated near established nuisance-causing activities. Additionally, the incorporation of noise and environmental impact assessments into planning processes could provide a proactive approach to mitigating nuisances.


The doctrine of “coming to the nuisance” remains a pivotal aspect of British nuisance law, reflecting the ongoing tension between individual property rights and established land uses. While historical precedents have laid a robust foundation, contemporary challenges necessitate a dynamic and context-sensitive application of the doctrine. As British society continues to evolve, so too will the legal principles governing nuisances, ensuring a balanced and equitable resolution of conflicts.

Ultimately, the enduring relevance of “coming to the nuisance” lies in its capacity to adapt to changing societal norms and expectations, providing a framework for resolving disputes that respects both historical practices and modern realities.

Coming To The Nuisance FAQ'S

Coming to the nuisance refers to a legal doctrine that states that if a person moves to a property or location where a nuisance already exists, they cannot later complain about the nuisance.

If the nuisance was already present before you moved in, you may not have a valid claim under the “coming to the nuisance” doctrine. However, if the nuisance was created after you moved in, you may have grounds for a lawsuit.

Common examples include noise pollution, odors, excessive dust, and other disturbances that may interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of one’s property.

Yes, if the plaintiff moved to the location knowing about the existing nuisance, you may be able to use the “coming to the nuisance” defence to argue that they cannot complain about it.

Yes, there are exceptions. For example, if the nuisance becomes significantly worse after the plaintiff moved in, they may still have a valid claim.

In some cases, yes. If the landlord knew or should have known about the tenant’s activities causing the nuisance and failed to take action, they may be held liable.

Typically, no. Since the doctrine assumes that the plaintiff knew about the nuisance before moving in, they may not be entitled to an injunction to stop it.

Generally, no. Landlords cannot retaliate against tenants for exercising their legal rights, including complaining about a nuisance.

It can be challenging to prove a subjective nuisance claim. However, if the nuisance is objectively unreasonable and interferes with the reasonable use and enjoyment of the property, a claim may still be successful.

Typically, no. Since the doctrine assumes that the plaintiff knew about the nuisance before moving in, they may not be entitled to compensation for damages caused by the nuisance.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 7th June 2024.

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