At one point or another, the unfortunate amongst us, have had to put up with noisy neighbours. In the recent case of Cocking -v- Eacott, the noisy neighbour in question was a pet terrier owned by Ms Eacott. Ms Eacott’s neighbours, Mr & Mrs Cocking, complained about the excessive barking of her dog and brought a claim for nuisance against both her and her mother, Mrs Waring. Although Ms Eacott occupied the property it was owned by her mother and Ms Eacott only had a bare licence to live there (a bare licence is when a licensor grants a licensee permission to enter onto his land but that licence can be terminated at anytime). Mrs Waring paid all of the bills and maintained the property and her daughter did not pay any rent.
Normally, landlords are not liable for their tenant’s nuisance and instead it is the occupier of the property who is responsible even if they did not directly cause it. The reason is because the occupier is in control and possession of the property. Mrs Waring therefore defended the claim on the basis that she was not liable for the nuisance committed by her daughter, who she said was a tenant. She claimed she was not personally involved in the alleged incidents and that she was actually estranged from her daughter. Mrs Waring had served a notice to quit on her and obtained a possession order but she had not enforced that order.
At the original trial, the Judge found that Mrs Waring was liable in nuisance to the Cockings even though she did not occupy the property because she was aware of that nuisance and had failed to take reasonable steps to abate it. As she had done nothing about it she herself became liable for it with the actual creator of the nuisance. Mrs Waring appealed against that decision.
The main issue which the Court of Appeal had to decide was whether the original Judge had been right in law to hold Mrs Waring liable for the nuisance when she had been the licensor of the property but had not actually resided there. The Court found that the Judge was correct in regarding Mrs Waring as an “occupier” of the property as she was both in possession and in control of it throughout her daughter’s residence; her daughter did not have a formal tenancy agreement but instead only a licence to occupy the property. Mrs Waring had been in possession and control of the property throughout her daughter’s residence and she had the ability to abate the nuisance but she had chosen not to do so. Mrs Waring appeal was therefore dismissed and she and her daughter were both ordered to pay damages to the Cockings as well as their legal costs.