Understanding Private Nuisance Law in British Columbia

person making noise

Navigating legal issues related to property rights can be complex, especially when it comes to private nuisance law in British Columbia. Whether you’re a property owner facing interference from a neighboring property or someone accused of causing such interference, understanding the intricacies of private nuisance law is crucial and difficult. In this article, we’ll delve into the key principles of private nuisance law in British Columbia, as outlined by relevant legal precedents and statutes with a recent case example.

What is Private Nuisance?

Private nuisance refers to interference with a person’s use and enjoyment of their property due to the actions or activities of another party. This interference must be substantial and unreasonable in nature to constitute a private nuisance. Examples of private nuisances include excessive noise, noxious odors, vibrations, and other disturbances that significantly impact a property owner’s enjoyment of their land.

Legal Framework in British Columbia

The legal framework for private nuisance law in British Columbia is primarily shaped by judicial decisions and statutes. The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Antrim Truck Centre Ltd. v. Ontario (Transportation), 2013 SCC 13, provides a foundational understanding of the requirements for proving private nuisance. According to this decision, there are two key elements to establish a private nuisance claim:

1. Substantial Interference: The plaintiff must demonstrate that the interference with their property is more than a trivial annoyance. This can include physical damage to the property or disturbances to the owner’s health, comfort, or convenience.

2. Unreasonableness: The interference must be unreasonable in all circumstances. This involves a balancing exercise where the court assesses the gravity of the harm suffered by the plaintiff against the utility of the defendant’s conduct.

Factors Considered by the Court:

In determining whether a private nuisance exists, courts consider various factors, including:

  • The severity of the interference.
  • The character of the neighborhood.
  • The sensitivity of the plaintiff.
  • The frequency and duration of the interference.
  • The nature of the defendant’s conduct.

It’s important to note that the focus of the analysis is on whether it is reasonable for the plaintiff to bear the interference without compensation, rather than whether the defendant’s actions were reasonable.

Precedents and Case Law

Several landmark cases have shaped private nuisance law in British Columbia. Obviously, the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Antrim Truck Centre Ltd. v. Ontario (Transportation), 2013 SCC 13, is the leading case. The British Columbia Court of Appeal decision in Baker v. Rendle, 2017 BCCA 72, reaffirmed the focus on the harm suffered by the plaintiff rather than the defendant’s conduct. Additionally, the case of Royal Anne Hotel Co. Ltd. v. Village of Ashcroft (1979), 95 DLR (3d) 756 (BCCA), provides valuable insight into what constitutes an unreasonable invasion of property interests.

Recent Case

In the recent decision of Hill v Herd, 2024 BCSC 797, the plaintiffs sought damages and orders from the court against a gas station and against municipal authorities for the torts of nuisance and negligence. In this lengthy and thorough decision, the court found that the smells of gasoline, the lights from the business, the noise emanating from the gas station caused by renovations and delivery of fuel did constitute nuisance. The court determined that the business was liable and the municipality was not. The court declined to order the stop of the issue and instead order damages amounting to $80,000. It was a mixed result for a party seeking to stop nuisance claims.


Private nuisance law in British Columbia serves to protect property owners from unreasonable interference with their use and enjoyment of land. By understanding the legal principles outlined in relevant cases and statutes, individuals can navigate private nuisance disputes effectively. Whether you’re seeking to assert your rights as a property owner or defend against a private nuisance claim, consulting with a qualified legal professional is essential for achieving a favorable outcome.

Hutchison Oss-Cech Marlatt is committed to providing legal guidance on property law matters, including private nuisance disputes, in British Columbia. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and discuss your legal needs.