A recent case which reached the Supreme Court somewhat clarifies the position of a landlord’s liability in nuisance where his tenant causes the nuisance.
It is often the case that landlords are brought into disputes where tenants are causing nuisance to neighbours.
In Coventry v Lawrence which appeared before the Supreme Court in February 2014, a judgement was made on the issues of nuisance and public policy.
The owners of a nearby bungalow brought proceedings against the occupiers (tenants) of the stadium and track, and also against the current landlord and a previous landlord. The occupiers were found to be liable.
Since then in July 2014 the Supreme Court finally determined the separate issue which arose from the same dispute, which was, is the landlord liable for a nuisance caused by its tenant?
Briefly, the Supreme Court has ruled that a landlord will not be liable for a nuisance caused by its tenant, except in circumstances where it can be shown that the landlord has authorised or has directly participated in the tenant’s acts of nuisance.
In the former case a landlord let to his tenant a motor sport facility, which he had previously used himself as a moto-cross track, noise from which caused nuisance to neighbours.
It transpired in the hearings that the landlord had done nothing to persuade the tenant to stop or reduce the noise nuisance, the landlord, apparently in an attempt to ameliorate the nuisance, had erected a hay-bale wall on the boundary of the facility, had contacted the local authority in respect of noise issues, had lodged an appeal against a noise abatement notice, and had accepted and co-ordinated responses to noise complaints.
But, the landlord was able to show that he had no involvement in the motorsport activities, had no remaining direct interest at the facility and or the business being operated there. He is therefore not liable in nuisance for the actions of his tenant.
These guidelines apply primarily to England. Other regions and jurisdictions are similar but there may be important differences. This is not a definitive interpretation of the law, every case is different and only a court can decide. If in doubt seek expert advice.