Salford City Council v McNally: HL 1976

The House considered the interaction of the 1936 and 1957 Acts as to the distinction between the questions of injury to health and fitness for human habitation: ‘It was not a defence to establish that the house, the subject of the complaint, was occupied by reason of section 48 of the Housing Act 1957 and was maintained in accordance with the standard laid down section 48(1), since a house unfit for human habitation within the Act of 1957 might not be prejudicial to be health or a nuisance the Act of 1936 and accordingly section 48 of the Act of 1957 did not dispense from public health requirements under the Act of 1936.’
Lord Wilberforce said: ‘In conclusion I would only add a few words as to the task of magistrates dealing with the Public Health Act 1936. They should, in the first place, keep close to the wording of the Act and ask themselves, after they have found the condition of the premises, the questions (i) is the state of the premises such as to be injurious or likely to cause injury to be health, or, (ii) is it a nuisance? To consider these questions in terms of fitness or unfitness for human habitation is undesirable and is likely to confuse. And the magistrate should find specifically under which limb the case falls. If he answers either question in the affirmative he must make an abatement order, and he should, if possible, make this as specific as he can, rather than order in general terms to abate the stautory nuisance. That may lead to difficulties in cases like the present. In making the order the magistrate should take into account the circumstances in which the property is being occupied including, of course, the likely duration of the occupation.’
Lord Edmund-Davies said that the premises were ‘at the material time prejudicial to the health of its occupier’, and ‘Be that as it may, no. 20 Johnson Street being at the material time undoubtedly a ‘a statutory nuisance,’ i.e., injurious to the health of the occupier . .’


Lord Wilberforce, Lord Edmund-Davies


[1976] AC 379


Public Health Act 1936, Housing Act 1957 48


England and Wales


Appeal fromSalford City Council v McNally QBD 19-Dec-1974
cw Public Health – Nuisance – Complaint by tenant – Local authority’s compulsory acquisition of house in clearance area – Local authority postponing demolition as house capable of providing accommodation of . .

Cited by:

CitedBirmingham City Council v Oakley HL 29-Nov-2000
When considering if premises fell within the section, and were ‘in such a state as to be prejudicial to health’, the court must consider some feature of the premises which was in itself prejudicial. An arrangement of rooms which was unsatisfactory . .
CitedNational Coal Board v Thorne 2-Jan-1976
Complaint was made as to the failure to repair a property, and the duty to abate the resulting nuisance. Watkins J said: ‘Speaking for myself I would adopt the words of Lord Wilberforce so as to state that a nuisance cannot arise if what has taken . .
CitedCunningham v Birmingham City Council Admn 6-May-1997
The council appealed against the finding that the complainant’s premises occupied under a tenancy of the council, constituted a statutory nuisance which they had a duty to abate. The claimant’s son was disabled and his condition involved behavioural . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Housing, Nuisance

Updated: 24 April 2022; Ref: scu.182876