I. An overview of nuisance
Most people in Hong Kong live in multi-storey buildings. The population density in these multi-storey buildings is high and neighbours live very close to each other. Residents can easily be affected by the actions of their neighbours, resulting in disputes.
In this section, we will discuss the following legal issues that commonly arise in neighbourhoods.
Nuisance can be understood as any on-going or recurrent activity or state of affairs that causes a substantial and unreasonable interference with people’s property, or with their use or enjoyment of that property.
Common law recognises that people have the right to use and enjoy their property, and have protection under the law from unreasonable interference by neighbours. If residents cause a nuisance to their neighbours, the residents are civilly liable for nuisance and can have civil proceedings brought against them under the tort of private nuisance.
In addition to private nuisance, there are statutory nuisances which are made nuisances by statute either in express terms or by implication. If your neighbour causes a statutory nuisance, you may lodge a complaint with the relevant government department. The relevant authority may issue a nuisance notice to require your neighbour to abate the nuisance. If the nuisance is not abated, it is a criminal offence.