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Buachaill
Buachaill, Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10623
Experience:  Barrister 17 years experience
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I have owned a small farm of about 20 acres three

Customer Question

I have owned a small farm of about 20 acres for about three years. The farm has been established for several centuries and we keep a variety of livestock but not on any commercial basis (its a lifestyle thing). We are located about 3 or 4 miles from the nearest town. We have two immediate neighbours within 50 metres of the property and a small huddle of houses about 200 metres away.
We lease one of our fields, and the tenant keeps sheep and poultry on the field.
About two or three months ago I received a message left at my business from a chap who wouldn't leave his name or contact number, but informed me that he was being harrassed by the noise of the cockerels during the day from my tenants field and that he demanded we remove the cockerels. He stated some noise abatement law that I did not at the time write down. He also informed that unless I did something about it he would take me to court. I immediately checked with my immediate neighbours but none of them had any problems with the noise, and I therefore let it go as a crank call.
However since then he has rung several times, and has also been attempting to canvas support (unsuccessfully) from my closest neighbours. Each time he has called my business he has refused to leave a name or number until today when I was actually in the office and spoke to him directly. To cut a long conversation short, he restated his demand for me to remove all the cockerels or else he will take me to court. His concern is that they make far too much noise, too often.
There is no doubt that the cockerels can be considered a pain and crow at the most unruly hours.
I would like to know the following:
1) Does he have a legitimate argument? If so how is reasonable farmyard noise defined?
2) If he does have a legitimate case, is it my responsibility or my tenants? Who should he pursue?
3) What are the statutory obligations to which he is referring
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Buachaill replied 2 years ago.

1. There are two aspects to this issue. The first arises from the law of nuisance. The second would arise from the European Noise Directive. For the purposes of the answer, I assume that this person complaining is not one of the two immediate neighbours within 50 metres of the property but is from the huddle of houses about 200 metres away.

2. Under the common law of nuisance, the standard applied is reasonable user of property within the locale in question. Here this is a rural area, 3 or 4 mile from the nearest town and the primary activity is agricultural. So agricultural activity is an accepted part of the neighbourly give and take in the law of nuisance. Having cockerels in an agricultural area is not an unreasonable user of land. This man would have to show that the noise from the cockerels was persistent and exceeded 45 Decibels in sound level on a persistent basis for him to have a case in nuisance. Given that the nearest neighbours don't have a difficulty, I very much doubt that the noise levels constitute a nuisance here. One expects animals such as cockerels in a rural agricultural area. it is a normal part of rural life.

3. Under the European Noise Directive, this man would have to show to your local Council that the noise levels were excessive and once again exceeded 45 Decibels where he is living and on a persistent basis. If the noise of the cockerels don't exceed 30 decibels, then they can be as persistent as they like and no remedy will be granted by the Council. Be aware here that it is your local Council who would have enforcement powers here. This man cannot seek enforcement himself. The threshold of human hearing is 0 decibels. 50 decibels is normal conversation beside you. So that gives you an idea of what is involved.

4. Finally, I would advise you to investigate further. Be aware that it is your tenant who would owe this man a duty under the law of nuisance, not you. Additionally, if the Council was taking enforcement action, it would also be against your tenant, not you.

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for this.
First of all, apologies for the delay in my reply. I received the email with the link to your reply yesterday. However the link took me to a page that had neither my question not your answer. I informed customer service but received no reply. It was only today, when the reminder came through that the correct page showed. You may wish to be aware of this issue if it happens that people do not reply as promptly as you might wish.
Back to your excellent response ...
I think you have answered pretty thoroughly. I would like to know the specific statutes that you refer to so that I can quote them to the chap to inform him of his rights and process.
Can I confirm that the 45 decibels is the external noise limit on his land (not in his house. So that I can arrange to take readings from the roadside) and that any noise level above this would lead to a legitimate claim eg if three cockerels somehow crowed simultaneously? Which leads me to the question of how frequently such noise would need to occur to be considered a nuisance. After all we do live in the country!
Thanks for this
Kind regards
Chris
Expert:  Buachaill replied 2 years ago.

5. The law of nuisance is not codified, so there are no statutes which deal with it, merely caselaw. The figures of 45 decibels and 30 decibels in the second part of the answer are taken from the European Noise Directive, so you can quote this, as this is what the Council will apply if they get involved.

6. The other point you need to realise that even if three cockerels crow and for an instant the noise levels reach 100 decibels, this does not mean that the activity is prohibited. A constant 45 decibels is permitted. So are temporary escalations in noise above this. The picture is looked at in the round. These are merely threshhold levels. Be aware that in the law of nuisance there is much more give and take and much higher noise levels are permitted so long as it relates to a permitted land use such as for agriculture. Finally, readings would be taken in this person's house as this is what this person would be subject to. Noise levels along the road would be higher as the noise would not have to pass through the walls. So you will appreciate a very high noise level is required, before enforcement action will be taken.

Buachaill and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hi,

This issue has now moved on, and I would like some more advice. Since you were so good with the initial information I thought it would be more efficient if you were kind enough to continue the conversation. If you do wish to take this on, please let me know how we proceed. I would like an answer by this weekend.

Here is a brief outline of the situation:

The complainant brought the issue of the cockerel noise to the attention of both the local Environmental Noise and Animal Welfare departments. Neither of the authorities felt there was a case to answer (I have a copy of the Environmental notes).

The chap then decided that this was not good enough and has written on three occasions threatening a civil action against me personally, rather than the tenants because he believes that I have money. I have written back to him on each occasion, explaining that I have a duty of care to both my neighbours and my tenant, and have no evidence that suggests that the tenant is doing anything that constitutes a nuisance under the law. I have also informed him that I have sought advice from the NFU (National Farmers Union) as to potential issues of either over population or adverse ratio of male to female animals creating undue competition. Again the tenants animals appear to be within the guidelines.

In his last letter the chap appears to be set on taking me to court unless I get the tenants to remove the alleged nuisance and I am not inclined to be bullied in this way. He recently came onto my property while I was away and upset my wife, taking pictures of all our assets (cars, building etc) so that he "knows where to chase the money." He informs me that he is fully insured to proceed and happy to spend as much money as it takes to get his way, and that he has done this kind of thing before. My wife is now extremely concerned about being taken to court and I am on the horns of a dilemma. What little sympathy I had for his case has completely vanished with his recent antics, but I am concerned for my wife's health (she is recovering from cancer and not as resilient as usual).

I would like to understand my position and possible options in terms of how I might broadside him.

I believe that I need answers for the following questions:

1) Does he actually have a reasonable claim against me, rather than the tenants of the land.

2) If he does proceed, is there any case law that might support his claim

3) Is there a term for someone who pursues a case against an individual even though all the evidence would appear to be against him (malicious?), and what might the consequences be for someone pursuing this course of action.

4) Do I have any claim against him for coming onto my land and taking photos with the intent to harass us, or his continued harassment on this issue?

5) Would his insurance (whatever it is) pay our costs if he does pursue and lose such a case?

I do understand that every individual has the right to seek redress in law, and completely support his right to do so. However I would prefer not to go down this route and deter him from doing so with as much rigour as I can before he commits us both to more stress and financial loss.

Many thanks for your time
Chris

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hello,

I'm just wondering when I can expect a reply?

I paid the offer yesterday

Kind regards

Chris

Expert:  Buachaill replied 1 year ago.

7. Apologies for the delay. For some reason the website did not inform me you had paid. To deal with your questions in sequential order. Firstly, this person does not have a claim against you. The claim is against your tenants. He will have received legal advice to this effect. So you need to see his attempt here to get you to eject the tenants for what it is. Bluster! Secondly, I know of no caselaw which will support his claim. Fundamentally, because there is no nuisance and this is what the authorities have held. Thirdly, the Human Rights Act does not allow a person to be refused their right to litigate. However, it does allow the imposition of an injunction to prevent repetitious actions being taken. However, here, your neighbour will be allowed to litigate his claim against you, even if you perceive it to be malicious and even if it absurd. Fourthly, you can take harassment proceedings against this man. You can get an injunction and damages. However, you should consider whether this will merely inflame the situation. My own view is that you are better off just give this person the deaf ear, even if your wife suggests otherwise.

Expert:  Buachaill replied 1 year ago.

8. Fifthly, I doubt whether this man has insurance to fund his claim, in the way he suggests. Even if he does (and most house insurance policies allow claims to be taken to protect property) an early opinion will be obtained by the insurer as to the validity of the claim. So, I would consider fruitless you attempting to second guess what his insurance does cover or does not. This once again is bluster, designed to threaten you, into doing something which weakens your position and the position of your tenants.

Expert:  Buachaill replied 1 year ago.

9. Finally, Chris, you should realise that someone who has a good cause of action will simply litigate against you. They don't need to go round to your house to tell you what they will do and what they won't do. That is what a bully, who does not want to go to court will do. So, have a suitable contempt for the antics of this person.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Thank you so much for this.

It is exactly what I needed to be able to close the conversation down

I just want to make sure that you have been paid, because when I went to mark your response I was taken to PayPal again for the same payment.

Kind regards

Chris

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hi,

I don't know if you received my earlier message, but I would just like to make sure that you have been paid.

I went to mark your service as excellent, but was taken to a payment page which is very frustrating because I had to pay to start the conversation.

Kind regards
Chris

Expert:  Buachaill replied 1 year ago.

Dear *****, thank you for your kind concern. I have in fact been paid for answering your question. So, best wishes.