Beware noisy neighbours in the flat next door…
Whilst most students living either in university or college accommodation or in private rented accommodation are mindful of their neighbours, sometimes institutions receive complaints from local residents or other students regarding noise.
A recent case has provided a timely reminder that there are circumstances where the institution – in its capacity as landlord – can be held responsible for nuisance activity of its (student) tenants.
In the case of Fouladi v Darout Ltd and others ( EWHC 3501 (Ch)) the High Court had to consider claims around noise nuisance from one tenant of the flat below against the tenant of the flat above. This was due partly to the fact that the flat above had installed a wooden floor and this had increased the noise levels from most of the usual daily living activities taking place there. However there was also evidence of late night parties and comings and goings at all times of the night.
A key feature of this case was that the landlord was common to both tenants. Under their leases the landlord covenanted that each tenant would be permitted to have quiet enjoyment of their respective flats.
The flat below brought a claim against the landlord alleging it was in breach of this covenant, founded on the allegation that the landlord had contributed to the nuisance being caused by the flat above. They claimed that the noise had worsened since the works to change the flooring which had increased the level of noise. Those works had been done without the landlord’s consent even though that was a lease condition.
In order to succeed in the claim against the landlord the flat below was required to show that the landlord had “participated” directly in the nuisance activity. It was not enough that the flat above had changed the floor without the landlord’s consent nor that the landlord knew the works were being done. The claimant needed to show that the completion of those works themselves was likely to lead to a nuisance being caused.
Whilst this case did not involve an education institution the principles are of general application. And whilst in this particular case the landlord escaped liability, it is not impossible that in other circumstances a landlord may in fact be held liable.
This is most relevant where student residences in apartment blocks are held on tenancies from the institution. Estates teams may need to be ready to intervene to help manage more serious nuisance activity in the future between student tenants where this is affecting the enjoyment of the residences by others. The institution as landlord would need to be able to show that it has not participated in the commission of the nuisance or in some way “authorised” the nuisance activity to continue.