Do Landlords Have a Duty of Care to Neighbours?
Choosing the wrong type of tenant can affect more than just you and your property. Unfortunately, disputes between neighbours are common; but under what circumstances does a landlord have a duty of care towards the neighbour, and when do problem tenants become the landlord's responsibility to deal with?
As a private landlord, you should ensure you choose the right tenant(s) when renting out your property so as to avoid disputes as far as possible. Having a considerate tenant that complies with the tenancy agreement and doesn’t cause problems to their neighbours will create an ongoing positive relationship between you, your tenant and the others who live in the local area.
However, even with careful monitoring, background checks and references, a problem tenant can slip through the initial due diligence process and leave private landlords with issues. This might include disputes with the neighbours of the rented property, which can escalate into legal action under the most serious circumstances - not only against the tenants who are causing the problem but with the landlord.
In this short guide, the experts at Percy Hughes & Roberts Solicitors discuss a landlord's responsibilities for their tenants, the circumstances under which landlords may be responsible for noisy tenants or inconsiderate behaviour, and the steps you can take to avoid any potential disputes. At Percy Hughes & Roberts, our team can help with any landlord queries and provide the legal services you need, whether you aim to mediate a dispute, evict tenants who are causing problems or need support in producing a tenancy agreement.
If you have questions we have not answered in this guide, our specialist landlord solicitors are happy to speak to you regarding your landlord query. You can contact us by completing the enquiry form below or by calling 0151 666 9090.
Do landlords have a duty of care to their tenant's neighbours?
In short, landlords have no legal duty of care towards the neighbours who live next door to their rented property. Having said this, you would be expected to help find a solution if a problem arises that is your tenant's fault, especially if this causes problems for neighbouring homes.
There are also scenarios where landlords may be legally liable and held responsible for their tenant’s nuisance behaviour. These include:
If the landlord encourages the nuisance behaviour
If the landlord refuses to remedy antisocial behaviour or turns a blind eye
If the landlord rented the property to a tenant knowing they were a potential nuisance when doing so; for example, letting to a musician who intends to practise in the property without making any effort to limit noise
If you, as a landlord, do everything in your power to avoid disputes with the property’s neighbours and take steps to remedy any issues that do occur, it is very difficult for neighbours to take legal action against you.
In most cases where a neighbour can take action, the landlord responsible must have been “active” or “directly involved” with the nuisance. It is usually not enough that they were simply aware of the potential problem and did nothing about it, as the tenant will be held liable for their behaviour in such cases.
Are landlords responsible for noisy or inconsiderate tenants?
One of the main complaints made by a neighbour is that the tenant is making too much noise. This is especially the case when the rental property is adjoined, such as a flat, or a terraced or semi-detached house.
What constitutes a noisy neighbour depends on a few factors, most notably the time of the day. Unless your tenant is persistent, unreasonable, or extremely loud, most neighbours will not complain about noise levels during the day. However, if neighbours complain that the noise is continuous throughout the day, or it happens during the night, they might have the legal right to make a noise complaint about this nuisance behaviour.
As a landlord, it is important to ensure your tenant uses your property in a reasonable way. If your tenant regularly has parties late at night, for example, neighbours may have legitimate cause to make a noise complaint. You may have to issue a warning to the tenant or come up with steps to resolve the issue - not because you will be held legally responsible, but simply because your role as a landlord will be easier if your tenants behave properly and get along with their neighbours.
While noise is among the most common complaints, there are other types of inconsiderate behaviour that could result in complaints from neighbours. Examples of this include:
Refusing to empty bins
Leaving bright lights on at night
Letting children play unattended in shared areas, such as hallways and gardens
Late-night DIY or other disruptive work
It is worth considering how you, as a landlord, can assist in resolving any disputes as quickly and easily as possible.
What can landlords do to avoid neighbour trouble?
Avoiding disputes before they escalate is always best, and there are several proactive steps you can take to achieve this. These include:
Put a “noise clause” in the tenancy agreement – A noise clause will make tenants aware that if they make too much noise, they could face eviction as a result. If this clause is already included in your tenancy agreement, you highlight this to the tenant to warn them against causing noise problems.
Talk to your tenant – A simple conversation can sometimes solve a dispute before it escalates. Your tenant may not be aware of the issue, or you may find that their neighbour has not divulged all of the information. Explain the problem, ask them how they intend to rectify it, and offer any suggestions or support that you can.
Give the neighbours your contact details – Giving the neighbours your contact details means they can contact you right away if they are having problems with your tenant. Sometimes, a simple chat with the neighbour can nip any dispute in the bud, rather than let it fester between the two neighbours. However, this can also worsen your relationship with your tenant if they feel that you are colluding with the neighbour, so you must manage this situation carefully.
Regularly inspect the property – It is essential you visit the property regularly. You can survey any potential problems during the inspection, and this also shows neighbours that you are serious about solving any issues that may arise. You must give tenants reasonable notice before entering the property - usually at least 24 hours - and if you fail to meet this responsibility, you could face legal consequences.
Take further action, if required – If you have tried all of the above and the tenant is still causing problems for their neighbours, you may have to take further action. You should only consider the below options as a last resort, in serious cases where there is no hope of the involved parties resolving the dispute themselves. If the dispute is ongoing, you could try:
Contacting your local council for advice
Seeking legal advice
Serving your tenant with a Section 21 Notice to begin eviction proceedings
Enlisting a professional civil mediator
Calling the police, in extreme circumstances
It is always best to seek legal advice before taking any of the steps listed here, to make sure you take a considered and appropriate course of action. This can help to protect you from legal repercussions and ensure that you meet all of your responsibilities as a landlord when trying to resolve a dispute.
How Can Percy Hughes & Roberts Help?
Dealing with disputes between neighbours as a landlord can be challenging, especially if you are unaware of your own legal rights and obligations. While you owe no legal duty of care to your property's neighbours, disputes between your tenant and their neighbours can put you in a tricky situation, as you may be expected to mediate the dispute and find a suitable solution for all parties.
If you require assistance with problem tenants, our specialist landlord solicitors can help. Percy Hughes & Roberts is based in Birkenhead and has been delivering the highest quality legal services for clients across the Wirral, Merseyside and the North West for more than 100 years.
We understand that problems arising with problem neighbours or tenants can be stressful and time-consuming for landlords. We provide expert legal advice and can instruct you on your next steps if a neighbour has lodged a formal complaint. Additionally, we can advise you of your legal liability in a variety of related situations, which can help you to reduce your risk of facing legal action.
Our landlord solicitors can help you with a range of issues relating to landlords and tenants and represent many residential landlords in the North West. For more information on our landlord services, do not hesitate to contact our expert solicitors today. Call us on 0151 666 9090, or send us your query by email by filling in our online contact form.