Even if you have thoroughly vetted your tenants, there’s no guarantee that they won’t cause excessive noise in the property leading to neighbours or even the local authority taking action. But is a noisy tenant a landlord’s responsibility? As a landlord, you aren’t the one making the noise. However, there are ways to decrease the likelihood of your tenants causing noise in the first place – as well as to address any noise problems as they escalate.
One of the very first and best things you can do to protect against noisy tenants is to include a clause in your tenancy agreements outlining that the tenant must agree not to make unnecessary noise or nuisance that could cause stress to neighbouring residents. There are various other pieces of advice that you may give to your tenants, such as to monitor the sound being emitted from radios and televisions throughout the day, avoid placing sound-emitting appliances next to shared walls and limit noise at inconvenient hours.
If, despite the above measures, you receive complaints from neighbours about noisy tenants in your property, you may initially urge them to take up the issue with the tenant, given that as a landlord, you are not legally liable for their noise. But if the neighbours have already tried this without achieving a reduction in noise – or are unwilling to do so – you should attempt to communicate with your tenant about the problem yourself. You should take an understanding and emphatic approach initially, asking what activities have been causing the noise and trying to help them to arrive at a solution. Unfortunately, there are circumstances in which these initial steps may not make a difference, in which case, your responsibilities as a landlord will change as the seriousness of any noise complaint escalates. What may have begun as a word with the tenant in response to a one-off complaint may have to morph into action to evict the tenant from the property.
In the event of the above actions not producing results, it may be a good idea to send your tenant a copy of the tenancy agreement highlighting any noise clause, as well as the potential repercussions of them breaching that clause, such as eviction. The neighbours may also be willing to assist at this point, such as by maintaining a diary of the dates and times at which the noise occurs or even using audio recording equipment to produce evidence of the noise that may help their case.
Such evidence can then be presented to the local council’s environmental health department, which will assess the situation with all of the information in its possession. A local authority is legally required to deal with any noise that it considers to be a ‘statutory nuisance’, and is also obliged to preserve the confidentiality of both you and the neighbours’ identities. If the local authority decides that too much noise is being created by tenants unwilling to reduce it, you will be able to use this as grounds on which to terminate the tenancy.
The short answer to this question may seem to be “no” – after all, you surely can’t be held responsible for the actions of another human being, any more than you can be sued by your wife’s creditors for her debts. It is true that a landlord is not generally responsible for private nuisance caused by a tenant or occupier. However, the landlord may be liable if they have been an active or direct participant in the nuisance or authorised the tenants to cause the nuisance. You may also be liable if, at the time the letting commenced, the nuisance was inevitable or almost certain to occur as a result of the given tenant renting the property. You will not be liable, however, if you merely knew of the intended use of the property prior to the tenancy commencing, and were aware that this use would result in nuisance. You will not be liable under the common law of private nuisance as a participator in the nuisance, simply because you did nothing to stop or discourage the tenant from causing the nuisance or failed to attempt to prevent the nuisance. Nonetheless, it is in the best interests of the landlord, neighbours and the wider community to take every step possible to resolve any problem of noisy tenants – whether or not you could be held personally liable.