Odours and drains

We receive complaints about a variety of odours which can be worse during humid conditions. An odour must be a regular occurrence, last for some time, and be severely affecting you in your property in order for us to investigate.

You may be asked to keep a record, over a period of days or weeks, of what you can smell, for how long and at what time of day. We will then use this information to determine if there is any pattern to the problem and then seek to find the cause and resolve the issue.

If the odour is found to be a statutory nuisance, then a notice could be served requiring the person responsible to take action. Sometimes, however, there is nothing further that can be done. If you live close to sewage works, farmland on which slurry is spread, a refuse tip or certain other smelly activities, you may be able to smell those activities from time to time. All we can do in those circumstances is require the operator to do what they reasonably can to minimise those smells.

Common odours

Who is responsible for sewage drainage.

Drainage maintenance is generally the responsibility of the owner of the property or Anglian Water (who you should contact for advice). You can report issues to us but we will likely refer you to who is responsible.

We sometimes receive complaints about smells from takeaways, restaurants and pubs.

We try to solve the problem by working with the owners, either informally or through formal legal action if necessary. Owners of premises who prepare hot food are advised to contact us for specific advice on extraction and filtration systems if they are concerned about odour nuisance.

During the summer months we also receive complaints about odour from bins containing waste food. In hot weather the smell from these bins can be very unpleasant and attract flies and vermin, so owners of takeaways and restaurants are advised to:

  • arrange for bins to be emptied on a more regular basis
  • bag all waste, making sure the bags are tightly tied before being placed in a bin
  • place bins out of direct sunlight
  • keep bin lids closed to prevent flies and animals getting in
  • wash the inside of bins every week with hot soapy water or disinfectant

Every spring and autumn we get a number of complaints about the spreading of manure or sewage on farmland.

This is recognized as standard agricultural practice and such a smell, though sometimes unpleasant, must be expected from time to time. The spreading of pre-treated sewage sludge is perfectly lawful as the sludge is pre-treated before spreading and poses no risk to human health. We will not investigate odour complaints relating to these activities unless the smell is frequent and lasts for several days.

Report it

As these are legal complaints, we cannot accept them anonymously and we will ask for your details. We will not divulge your details to the person you're complaining about.

Select your local area for more information:

If your area isn't listed, you may be a resident of West Northamptonshire.

Last updated 21 February 2024