Landlord Liability For Tenant Nuisance

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

Coventry v. Lawrence first appeared before the Supreme Court in February 2014. The Supreme Court handed down a seminal judgment on issues of nuisance and public policy. The Supreme Court has now determined a separate issue arising from the same dispute, namely the liability of a landlord for a nuisance caused by the landlord's tenant. In summary, a landlord will not be liable for a nuisance caused by its tenant except where the landlord authorises or directly participates in the tenant's nuisance.


The background is straightforward. The landlord let its moto-cross track and speedway facility to a tenant. The activities of the tenant amounted to a nuisance for which the tenant was liable to the appellants. The landlord had previously used the facilities for motorsport. Further, the landlord:

did nothing to persuade the tenant to stop or reduce the nuisance; erected a hay-bale wall on the boundary of the facility and the appellants' property; liaised with the local authority in respect of noise issues; appealed against a noise abatement notice; and co-ordinated responses to noise complaints. However, the landlord had no involvement in the motorsport activities, had no remaining property interest at the facility and did not receive any profits arising from the activities carried out at the facility. The Supreme Court had to ascertain if the landlord should be liable to the appellants for the nuisance caused by the tenant.


In summarising the law, in order for landlord to be liable for its tenant's nuisance, it must be an inevitable or close to inevitable consequence of the grant of the lease that a nuisance will be caused for the landlord to be liable. Whilst a person carrying out the nuisance will be liable, a person who authorises the nuisance will also be liable.

However, "it is not enough for [the landlord] to be aware of the nuisance and take no steps to prevent it". In order to be liable, the landlord "must either participate directly in the commission of the nuisance, or they must be taken to have authorised it by letting the property" (Southwark London Borough Council v. Mills [2001]).

In Smith v. Scott [1973] it was held that there had to be a "virtual certainty or a very high degree of probability that a letting would result in a nuisance". Malzy v. Eichholz [1916] clarified that "authority to conduct a business is not an authority to conduct it as to...

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