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Landlords not to blame for tenant nuisances

14 August 2014

A landmark ruling in the Supreme Court has confirmed landlords have no legal responsibility for noise or nuisance caused by their tenants unless they directly participate in the antisocial behaviour.

The decision undermines measures by many local councils who try to make landlords responsible for policing tenant activities and then use their failures as evidence to justify blanket licensing for registering buy to lets or houses in multiple occupation (HMO).

In the case, Coventry and others v Lawrence and another (No. 2) [2014] UKSC 46, the landlord rented out a motorcycling track to a tenant.

The landlord had already run motorsports on the land, so no new nuisance arose from the arrangement.

The court was told the landlord did nothing to stop or limit the noise arising from the tenant’s activities, but did negotiate with the council on noise abatement issues.

The judges were told the landlord had no management role at the site and received no profits from the activities going on there.

The point of law before the court was that in renting out the property, a landlord should realise the letting would inevitably lead to a nuisance.

However, the judges found that the landlord could not know in advance the tenant in this case would cause a nuisance to neighbours, so he could not be held responsible for the noise.

The Supreme Court decided the landlord’s liability was a question of fact, and even though he knew what activities would take place on the land, he could not know that this would inevitably cause a nuisance.

The judges went on to add that not acting to reduce the nuisance was not enough to make the landlord complicit in what was going on.

They also said the evidence was clear that the landlord was not involved in the nuisance in any way, had no control over the use of the property and did not profit from the activities causing the nuisance.

The ruling recommended landlords should always consider how their tenants will use their property to ensure they gave no unintended permission of a tenant’s nuisance.

The judges also added any ‘no nuisance’ condition in the lease would not help a landlord avoid liability if they realised the intended consequences of the tenancy would result in a nuisance.

Although the case related to a commercial lease, the decision also affects residential tenancies where a third party tries to hold a landlord responsible for any antisocial behaviour arising from how the tenant uses the property.