scots law
basic advice from govan law centre

legal remedies for neighbour nuisance


  • The law provides a range of remedies which are designed to tackle ‘neighbour nuisance’.  In practice most neighbour complaints of ‘anti-social behaviour’ relate to excessive noise, however, this basic guide should be relevant to a wide range of potential complaints.

  • Legal remedies should only be pursued where there is absolutely no prospect of reaching a compromise or consensus with your neighbour – in other words where common-sense cannot prevail.

  • Criminal law – some forms of nuisance may constitute a criminal offence – whether breach of the peace or another common law crime at Scots law. Some forms of nuisance may represent a statutory offence. For example, dog fouling in public places comes within the provisions of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, as does noise nuisance; the 1982 Act (as amended by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998) gives the police power, in certain circumstances, to remove musical and electrical equipment where a noise nuisance exists. Accordingly, the police might well be the appropriate authority to complain to in the first instance.

  • Noise control – where a neighbour plays excessively loud music or creates a noise nuisance generally, you should consider contacting the police. As noted above, the police have statutory powers to deal with excessive noise. You can also complain to your local environmental health department (a department within your local council). ‘Environmental health officers’ (EHOs) have the power to serve ‘abatement notices’ upon those who are responsible for the creation of unreasonable noise (see s.80, Environmental Protection Act 1990 – the EPA). In terms of the EPA a local authority must investigate an alleged complaint of statutory nuisance. Whether the council decides to act upon the alleged nuisance (and for example, serve notice under section 80, and/or take legal action) is a matter for their discretion. However, you may have right to personally serve a ‘statutory nuisance notice’ upon the person responsible for a nuisance – see Govan Law Centre's section on ‘EPA aggrieved person procedure’.

  • Interdict – If you are personally suffering from a continuing nuisance, you can ask the court to grant an interdict to stop the person responsible for the nuisance repeating it. If you are on a low or modest income you may be eligible for civil legal aid in order to raise proceedings. The Scottish Legal Aid Board has information on eligibility criteria for civil legal aid and advice and assistance. As a fast track measure, the court can be asked to grant interim interdict against the person responsible for the nuisance. Interim interdict can be obtained within a day or so. If you are an owner-occupier and the person responsible for the nuisance is also, it is worthwhile checking your title deeds – often there will be real burdens and conditions preventing a particular use of the property – other owners may be able to use these conditions as a ground for interdict. If the person responsible for the nuisance is a tenant, their landlord may be able to interdict them against the offending behaviour, This will depend on whether the tenancy agreement expressly prohibits such behaviour – if it does, then this may be used as the ground for interdict.

  • Anti-social behaviour orders – Your local authority may be in a position to apply to the sheriff court for an order prohibiting the person against whom an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) is made from doing anything described in the order. Breach of the order without excuse will be a criminal offence. It is a matter for the discretion of the local council to decide whether or not it should raise ASBO proceedings against an individual.

  • Tenancy agreement – if the person responsible for a nuisance is a tenant, you can complain to his/her landlord. Ultimately, the landlord is in a position to require the tenant to adhere to the responsibilities as set out in the tenancy agreement. The final sanction a landlord may pursue is, of course, eviction.

  • You can obtain further free help and advice from your local law centre (which employs solicitors practising in this field of law).  If you are in receipt of a modest or low income, you may be entitled to help from a private practice firm of solicitors.