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Birmingham City Council

Odour

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Overview

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 is the legal framework used to investigate odour complaints deemed to be causing a nuisance or being injurious to health. We will investigate complaints of odour in most cases.

Odour can be produced from various sources, such as:

  • agriculture
  • business practises
  • domestic premises
  • keeping of pets
  • accumulation of rubbish.

We cannot deal with cooking odours or smoking odours from domestic properties, but we will investigate the following complaints:

  • fumes from boilers
  • smoke from bonfires or chimney, see Air Pollution page
  • Odour from accumulations of waste (for instance dog faeces, food items)
  • Odour due to the manner in which animals are kept
  • Odour from a filthy premises
  • Odour from industrial, trade or business premises
  • Blocked or broken sewerage systems, see drainage pages

If you are experiencing problems with odour, we recommend that you approach the person directly causing the odour nuisance, as they may be unaware that they are disturbing other people. If they are unwilling to resolve the situation, please report it using the 'report a problem with odour' button above.

For further information see below under 'how to complain about an odour problem'.

Essential Information
  • If you do wish to complain about a smell you will need to complete the form 'report a problem with odour' button above. An environmental health officer will visit your property to find the cause and examine what, if anything, can be done about it.

    If you are not sure where the odour is coming from, or it is coming from your own property you should consider the information below before you make a complaint. If the smell comes and goes then create a diary over two weeks. Write down the times and dates when the smell starts and finishes, and if the smell is stronger in any particular area of the house. Review the diary and see if there are any patterns present.


    Common causes of odour problems can often come from your own property and can include:


    • Old electrical wiring including plastic lighting fittings can cause an unusually ‘fishy’ smell.
    • Check washing machine, tumble driers, or dishwasher for blocked or defective pipes / filters.
    • Check walls, ceilings, and lofts and cellars for mould or dampness caused by a housing defect, such as a leaking pipe or guttering; blocked external air bricks; poor air circulation around furniture which is being stored against external walls; a broken or defective extractor fan in bathroom, WC or kitchen.
    • Mould caused by a tumble dryer which has not been vented properly as per manufacturers instructions.
    • Check behind and under furniture for discarded or spilt food.
    • Rat or mice activity (Please see the pest control page).
    • Dead mice or rats can cause an odour following a recent pest control treatment at your own or neighbouring properties. If the animal cannot be removed due to its location the smell will last for approximately 2 – 4 weeks dependant on the size of the animal and the environmental conditions. Pest control do not offer a service to collect dead animals from within a property.

    In some circumstances we may be unable to act on behalf of a person who has made a complaint of nuisance. This may be due to the type of problem, the circumstances of the case or lack of evidence. Even if we cannot take action there is a range of independent action that can be taken privately by individuals. This includes complaining directly to the Magistrates' Court under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 as amended. Though rarely used, this procedure is simple and need not be expensive.

  • What is offensive to one person may be acceptable to another and factors that are examined when considering the existence of a statutory nuisance are:

    • type of odour
    • wind strength and direction
    • duration of odour
    • time of day
    • how often it occurs

    The odour needs to be considered to be a Statutory Nuisance in the environmental health officer’s professional opinion.The source of the odour also needs to be beyond reasonable doubt.

    To be a statutory nuisance the odour needs to be seen to be affecting the comfort or enjoyment of the complainant’s property or the public at large.

  • If we witness a statutory nuisance, then we will serve an abatement notice. This is a legal document that we serve on the person responsible for the nuisance, or the owner or occupier of the premises. It instructs them to stop the odour occurring and not allow it to restart. The notice is normally served on the person responsible for the nuisance, however if that person cannot be found the owner or occupier of the premises causing the nuisance will be issued with the notice instead.

    If the notice is not complied with the person served with the notice may be prosecuted. There is a maximum fine of £5000 in domestic nuisance cases and £20,000 for commercial and industrial nuisance cases.

    Please note: If you want us to resolve this problem for you, and we need to take legal action to do it we may have to disclose your personal details. For example, if we serve a legal notice on the person causing the problem they will have a right to know who made the complaint if they decide to legally appeal against the abatement notice in court. Similarly, if a case goes to the court you may be required to give evidence.

Frequently Asked Questions
    • Odour is the smell that we are able to detect from substances, usually carried by air into our nostrils. The ability of odours to be carried long distances in the air means that odours have the ability to affect a large number of people. The degree to which people are affected will however depend on the sensitivity of their sense of smell and their tolerance of the odour in question. Odours arise from a wide range of sources, the following are examples of odour from domestic sources that might lead to complaints:

      • Accumulations of waste
      • Decomposing animals (e.g. rodents or birds)
      • Bonfires
      • DIY activities
      • Cooking

    • We can take action under Section 80 of The Environmental Protection Act 1990 in cases where odour/fumes from domestic premises constitutes a statutory nuisance. The types of problems that we are able to deal with however, are restricted to the following:

      • Odour/fumes from boilers or other fixtures
      • Odour/smoke from bonfires or chimneys
      • Odour from accumulations of waste (for instance dog faeces or food items)
      • Odour due to the manner in which animals are kept at the premises
      • Odour from industrial, trade or business premises
      • Odour from a filthy premises

      Whether or not odour constitutes a statutory nuisance depends on several factors. These include severity, duration, how regularly they occur, and whether they would interfere with the “average” person's reasonable enjoyment of their property. For instance, an unpleasant odour in someone’s garden in the winter that does not enter their house would not constitute a statutory nuisance as the “average” person would not be expected to spend significant periods of time in their garden during cold weather. However, during warmer weather they are more likely to be in the garden and therefore the same odour would be more likely to constitute a statutory nuisance.

    • In some instances a build up of waste items such as: urine or faeces within a domestic property may cause odour problems that affect nearby residents. Should this be the case then a notice would be served on the occupier under Section 83 of the Public Health Act 1936 requiring the property to be cleansed and waste items removed. Please report it using the 'report a problem with odour' button above.

    • If you haven't been able to find the information that you need then the link below will take you to a form that you can use to ask us further questions.


      Service Specific Enquiry
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