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Are commercial landlords liable for noisy tenants?

Dealing with noisy neighbours can be tough. However, whether you’re a homeowner, landowner, residential, or business tenant, there are steps you can take to stop unreasonable commercial or industrial noise.

Fines for excessive noise from a commercial premises are much higher than that of a private home. In addition, should a nuisance complaint against a business be upheld, an injunction may be issued that curtails the activity giving rise to the disturbance.

Because of this, many companies are willing to take steps to limit the noise omitted from commercial activity in order, not only to appease their neighbours, but also to protect their professional interests.

First Steps

As a first step, approaching the offending neighbour and politely informing them of the nuisance is often enough to start the resolution process. Where this fails, your local Council can act on your behalf to resolve the problem. Once a complaint is lodged with the Council, the relevant Environmental Protection Team, will investigate the matter, and if appropriate, impose measures to control the noise, or prohibit it entirely (although this can be long-drawn out process). Should these restrictions be broken, and the noise continue, significant fines may be imposed.

However, in order to take action on your behalf, the Council must have enough evidence to prove that the disturbance is severe enough to be deemed a ‘statutory nuisance’ in a legal sense. So, what can you do if the situation is not resolved to your satisfaction? Or, if the Council is unwilling or unable to progress your case?

Taking Private Nuisance Action

Statutory nuisances are set in the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Issues that may be considered a statutory nuisance include certain emissions, infestations, the accumulation of rubbish, and noise. For a problem to count as a statutory nuisance, it must either affect (or be likely to affect) a person’s health and/or unreasonably and substantially interfere with the use or enjoyment of their home or premises.

It is possible for those affected by a statutory nuisance to take matters into their own hands and raise a private action directly to the Magistrates Court. It is advisable, however, to consult with a solicitor before doing so as you may be liable for your opponent’s costs if your action does not succeed and this can be expensive.

Who’s Liable?

In 2014, The Supreme Court looked at whether a landlord can be held liable for a nuisance carried out by a commercial tenant on rented land.

In this case the Court considered whether the owner of a stadium and a track could be held responsible for the noise that arose from the tenant’s use of the land for speedway and motorcar racing.*

Bringing proceedings against both the landlord and the tenant, the residents of a bungalow some 850 yards away argued that, as the landlord was aware of the intended use of the stadium and track, both parties should be accountable for the disturbance.

In this particular case, the Supreme Court decided that the landlord was not liable as it had neither authorised nor participated in the nuisance. However, while this sounds like good news for commercial property owners, the case did establish that renting a property to another party does not release a landlord from their contractual and common law duties. In short, a landlord can indeed be held liable for a nuisance caused by a tenant if they authorised the actions that resulted in the nuisance. What’s more, landlords can also be held responsible for any nuisances caused to its tenant by the clientele of another one of its tenants.

For tenants faced with difficult commercial neighbours, it is, therefore, worth talking directly to the landlord of the property to see if they can help you to resolve the issue.

It’s unlikely that they will want to see the dispute taken to court and may be willing to assist in resolving the situation to protect themselves from litigation and resulting loss if at all possible. Particularly as the landlord can be held liable merely for failing to act to abate a nuisance once brought to their attention.

This is also true if your landlord and the neighbouring landlord are one and the same.

If an owner has granted you a lease, as a tenant, you have the right to expect that they will not subsequently give rights to others to use any neighbouring property in a manner that would substantially diminish the fitness for purpose of your unit, or compromise your quiet enjoyment.

Finally – as a word of caution to landlords – it’s always worth considering the likely effect on neighbouring tenants and landowners when letting a commercial property. While a landlord’s direct involvement in the commission of a nuisance might prove easily avoidable, of greater concern is the possibility that you could inadvertently authorise a nuisance merely by letting the property.

If you would like more information on Taking or Defending Private Nuisance Action, please contact Linder Myers today.

Find out more about our Commercial Litigation department Contact us

*Coventry and others v Lawrence and another (No 2) [2014] UKSC 46, [2014] All ER (D) 226 (Jul)



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