This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Patients' cars are causing a nuisance - what can I do?

Barristers Michael Salter and Chris Bryden look at a problem arising from patient's cars which, it is claimed, are causing a nuisance

Barristers Michael Salter and Chris Bryden look at a problem arising from patient's cars which, it is claimed, are causing a nuisance

THE SITUATION

My surgery is situated at the end of a residential cul-de-sac.

I do not have a car park that patients can use, but many drive to their appointments.

There are no parking restrictions on the roads surrounding the surgery, but we have recently received a complaint from a resident that patients' cars are causing "a private and/or statutory nuisance".

The letter, from a solicitor, goes on to threaten a claim for an injunction and damages against us. What should we do?

THE ADVICE

It appears in this situation that the resident is claiming that the practice has committed (and is continuing to commit) the tort of nuisance.

If proved, a court can order that the nuisance in question cease, by way of making an injunction prohibiting, for example, the parking of cars in a certain area.

The court could, alternatively, award damages to the affected person in lieu of an injunction.

It seems unlikely, if patients are simply parking their cars on the side of the road, that the disgruntled neighbour will be able to successfully demonstrate that a nuisance is being caused.

A nuisance is usually an emanation from one person's land onto another, by way of smell, noise or escape of water, for example.

Simply attracting more cars than an ordinary residential property would do is unlikely to fall within the definition of a nuisance.

It may be that the concern of the neighbour is related to noise, such as doors slamming, engines being stopped and started, and perhaps the noise from children.

As the practice is likely to operate during normal surgery hours (i.e. not late at night, for example), such noise is likely to be taken to be only the ordinary type that a reasonable person would expect on a residential street.

It is unlikely to be actionable.

If noise is a real problem, a polite notice in the waiting room asking patients to respect the neighbours by leaving quietly would be useful.

In any event, so long as the surgery is of relatively long-standing, it seems very unlikely that any complaint of nuisance by way of a small amount of noise during the day-time, or by way of attracting cars to the area, is likely to succeed.

The surgery will have been given planning consent to operate other than as a residential property despite its location.

Were a neighbour to challenge this, it is likely that there would be significant objection by other neighbours who did not wish the surgery to close.

However if cars are being parked in a way that is dangerous or obstructs the highway, this is something which could give rise to a legitimate cause for complaint.

The same applies if the cars are trespassing onto private land - for example parking or turning around in private driveways.

However the target of any such complaint would at first instance be the offending drivers.

It is less likely that a legal action could be mounted against the practice as the practice has no control over the driving actions of its patients.

However a sensible course of action would once again be to inform patients by way of a notice in the waiting room that care should be taken when parking cars and when leaving the area.

As a rule the first thing that the practice should do upon receipt of a solicitor's letter should be to take independent legal advice from a solicitor or public-access barrister.

Often even seemingly trivial matters can result in unwelcome court proceedings and costs.

It is often possible, upon retaining a solicitor, to deal with such matters at a minimum of cost and inconvenience by way of negotiation or otherwise.

Michael Salter and Chris Bryden are barristers at 2 Gray's Inn Square Chambers: www.2gis.co.uk Michael Salter is also able to accept instructions directly from readers of Pulse. Please visit www.michaelsalter.net for guidance on how to instruct him. Legal points are provided for discussion only and are given without obligation. For specific legal advice consult your solicitor or contact Michael Salter via his website

Rate this article 

Click to rate

  • 1 star out of 5
  • 2 stars out of 5
  • 3 stars out of 5
  • 4 stars out of 5
  • 5 stars out of 5

0 out of 5 stars

Have your say