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Landlord not usually liable for tenant’s nuisance

A landlord is not liable for nuisance caused by a tenant unless it has either authorised or directly participated in it, the Supreme Court has confirmed.

A landlord let a stadium used for motor racing to a tenant. A neighbouring homeowner had not known about the motor racing days when she bought her house. Having failed to get an injunction to stop the tenant from carrying out motor racing on grounds the resulting noise was a legal nuisance, she tried to argue that the landlord was liable for its tenant’s activities.

The Supreme Court found that a landlord was only liable for its tenant’s nuisance if it either authorised it or participated directly in it.

The tenant unsuccessfully argued that letting the property amounted to authorising the nuisance. While a landlord can sometimes be taken to have authorised a nuisance simply by letting the property, it had to be inevitable or a virtual certainty that one would result in the other – the fact a nuisance could result was not enough. In this case the landlord was aware of the intended activities on the property but it was not inevitable that they would result in a nuisance.

The tenant also unsuccessfully argued that failing to persuade the tenant to stop the noise amounted to direct participation in the nuisance.

The landlord had put up hay-bale barricades and the tenant argued this also amounted to direct participation in the nuisance. The court disagreed again, saying it was mitigation, not participation or authorisation.

The landlord had also appealed a noise abatement notice issued by the local council and liaised with it over the neighbour’s complaints. The neighbour argued this amounted to authorising or participating in the nuisance.

The court ruled that the landlord had a legitimate interest in having a paying tenant in the property. It took no part in the tenant’s operations, had no direct interest in profits from its activities and had no other land nearby. There was neither authorisation nor participation and the landlord was not, therefore, liable for the tenant’s nuisance on grounds it had authorised or participated directly in it.

Recommendation

• Landlords should consider the activities proposed tenants will carry out to ensure they will not inevitably, or almost certainly, amount to a nuisance. They should otherwise ensure they are neither authorising nor directly participating in any nuisance that could result from the tenant’s activities.
• Homebuyers should ensure they investigate the activities allowed under planning permissions for local amenities such as stadiums, and enquire about other potential nuisances, such as the ‘noise characteristics’ of the neighbourhood.

Case ref: Coventry and others v. Lawrence and another (No. 2) [2014] UKSC 46

12 September 2014

Alex Cook initially trained as a Barrister (non-practicing) before cross-qualifying as a specialist commercial and property litigation solicitor. Prior to becoming joint owner of Helix Law in 2013, he was Head of Litigation and one of the youngest partners in the region in a large firm based in Eastbourne. Comfortable and experienced litigating against large international City firms, he has successfully resolved complex commercial and property disputes for clients ranging from large international businesses and property investors to individual business people. Alex is an accredited commercial mediator  and he is increasingly asked to advise on contracts, risk, dispute avoidance and exit strategies. He also continues to develop and innovate our products, services and funding arrangements with the aim of making specialist litigation services more transparent and accessible.

This article is written to raise awareness of the issues it discusses and it may not be updated after it is first written, even if the law changes. It is not intended to be legal advice and cannot be relied on as such. Helix Law is not responsible or liable for any action taken or not taken as a result of  this article. If you think the matters set out affect you and you wish to apply them to your particular circumstances then we are happy to give you free initial telephone advice. 

Contact Helix Law on 01273 761 990 or email: [email protected]