In multi-let buildings and/or in premises in close proximity, there is almost certain to be a degree of interruption, interference, annoyance or disturbance caused at some stage by one occupier to another or others. There is only so much of this that can be tolerated especially when this is having an impact on the businesses of neighbouring owners. The problem is, what can be done if requests for them to stop are ignored? Each situation is different and fact specific and therefore the appropriate course of action will vary depending upon the exact circumstances; however, an overview of the options available is set out below.
A landlord is not liable for any nuisance caused by its tenants unless:
However, in a multi-let building where the tenants share the same landlord, it is worth checking the terms of your lease. This is because all of the leases in the same building are likely to be in a similar form and almost all modern leases contain:
Therefore, if asked, the landlord is obliged to take steps to enforce the no nuisance clause. However, the lease is also likely to entitle the landlord to ask for an indemnity for its costs from the tenant requesting this course of action.
Depending upon the type of nuisance, it may be an issue that the local authority’s environmental health department can assist with. If the nuisance counts as a ‘statutory nuisance’, which includes problems such as noise, smoke, dust, smell or artificial lights, then a local authority has an obligation to investigate and take such action as it considers appropriate. This could be as little as sending a letter or as much as serving a formal abatement notice. The advantage to this is it becomes the local authority’s problem, but the disadvantage is that there is no control over how the local authority will decide to deal with the issue or the speed at which it will address it.
If the actions of the nuisance neighbour are continuous and have caused/are causing actual physical damage or unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of the neighbouring tenants’ properties, then there is the option to take action in nuisance directly against the offending tenant for an injunction that the nuisance cease and/or an order for damages. It may be the case that a formal pre-action letter from solicitors is sufficient for the nuisance neighbour to take steps to resolve the problem so full legal proceedings may be unnecessary.
If a number of neighbouring tenants are suffering as a result of one tenant’s nuisance, it is worth considering whether all or some are willing to partake in and contribute to the costs of any action whether that be indemnifying the landlord for its costs of enforcing the lease covenants or pursuing a claim directly against the nuisance neighbour.
In all circumstances it is important to ensure that sufficient evidence is kept of all instances of the interruption, interference, annoyance or disturbance. This should be a diary/record of every instance supported by pictures, videos or recordings if possible. It is also worth considering instructing a specialist to visit and undertake a report, for example on the level of audible noise.
Each situation is fact specific and will depend upon the circumstances but, in every situation, it is important to collect sufficient evidence and consider all of the options available at an early stage.
Karen Mitchell, Senior Associate, Fladgate LLP (firstname.lastname@example.org)