Southwark London Borough Council v Mills/Tanner; Baxter v Camden London Borough Council: HL 21 Oct 1999

Tenants of council flats with ineffective sound insulation argued that the landlord council was in breach of the covenant for quiet enjoyment in their tenancy agreements.
Held: A landlord’s duty to allow quiet enjoyment does not extend to a positive duty to require an improvement in the sound-proofing of a building, well beyond standards which had applied at the time when the houses were built. This applied even though the noise would not now be acceptable. In such circumstances, there was no nuisance committed. Acts necessary for the common and ordinary use and occupation of land and houses may be done, if conveniently done, without subjecting those who do them to action. The covenant for quiet enjoyment is broken if the landlord or someone claiming under him does anything which substantially interferes with the tenant’s title to or possession of the demised premises or with his ordinary and lawful enjoyment of the demised premises. The interference need not be direct or physical.
Lord Millet said that it was not enough for a landowner to act reasonably in his own interest. He must be considerate of the interest of his neighbour. The governing principle is good neighbourliness, and this involves reciprocity. The landlord or landowner must show the same consideration for his neighbour as he would expect his neighbour to show for him. There has, therefore, to be a balance, on both sides, between the use and enjoyment of one’s own land and the use and enjoyment by one’s neighbour of his land. However for a landlord to become liable in nuisance for his tenant’s acts, it is not enough ‘to be aware of the nuisance and take no steps to prevent it. They must either participate directly in the commission of the nuisance, or they must be taken to have authorised it by letting the property.’
Lord Hoffmann said: ‘The covenant has a very long history. It has been expressed or implied in conveyances and leases of English land for centuries. It comes from a time when, in a conveyancing context, the words ‘quiet enjoyment’ had a technical meaning different from what they would today signify to a non-lawyer who was unacquainted with their history.’

Lord Slynn of Hadley, Lord Steyn, Lord Hoffmann, Lord Clyde, Lord Millett
Times 22-Oct-1999, Gazette 10-Nov-1999, Gazette 03-Nov-1999, [1999] 4 All ER 449, [2001] 1 AC 1, [1999] UKHL 40, [1999] 3 WLR 939, [1999] 3 EGLR 35, [2000] 32 HLR 148, [1999] 45 EG 179, (2000) 79 P and CR D13, [1999] EGCS 122, [2000] Env LR 112, [1999] NPC 123, [2000] L and TR 159, [2000] BLGR 138
House of Lords, Bailii
Housing of the Working Classes Act 1885 12, Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 8
England and Wales
CitedHart v Windsor CexC 1843
‘There is no contract, still less a condition, implied by law on the demise of real property only, that it is fit for the purpose for which it is let.’ . .
First instanceSouthwark London Borough Council v Mills and Others ChD 11-Mar-1998
A claim for a breach of the landlord’s covenant for quiet enjoyment, through the sound of normal activities from a neighbour being heard, succeeded. . .
CitedEdler v Auerbach 1950
Devlin J said: ‘It is the business of the tenant, if he does not protect himself by an express warranty, to satisfy himself that the premises are fit for the purpose for which he wants to use them, whether that fitness depends upon the state of . .
CitedQuick v Taff Ely Borough Council CA 1986
Because of fungus, mould growth and dampness, the tenant’s council house was virtually unfit for human habitation in the winter when the condensation was at its worst. Section 32(1) of the 1961 Act implied in the tenancy a covenant by the council to . .
CitedMcNerny v London Borough of Lambeth CA 1988
The scale of the dampness which had to be endured by a tenant led to constant colds and minor ailments being suffered by the plaintiff and her children who had to live in those unhealthy conditions.
Held: The legislature had ‘conspicuously . .
CitedJenkins v Jackson ChD 1888
Kekewich J said that the word ‘quietly’ in the covenant for quiet possession in a lease ‘does not mean undisturbed by noise. When a man is quietly in possession it has nothing whatever to do with noise . . ‘Peaceably and quietly’ means without . .
CitedKenny v Preen 15-Oct-1962
A landlord’s threats to evict the tenant, accompanied by repeated shouting and knocking on her door, was held to be a breach of his covenant for quiet enjoyment. The court explained that ‘the word ‘enjoy’ used in this connection is a translation of . .
Appeal fromLondon Borough of Southwark v Mills and Others CA 29-Jul-1998
The authority appealed against an award made in arbitration proceedings brought by its tenant who complained that she could hear everything happening in a neighbouring flat, even though the tenants of that flat wer acting reaosnably.
Held: . .
CitedSt Helen’s Smelting Co v Tipping HL 1865
The defendant built a factory, from which the escaping chemical fumes damaged local trees.
Held: The defendant was liable even though the smelting was an ordinary business carried on properly, and even though the district surrounding was . .
CitedPhelps v City of London Corporation 1916
Peterson J said it was ‘at least doubtful’ whether a nuisance by noise was a breach of the covenant for quiet enjoyment. . .
CitedTipping v The St Helen’s Smelting Company (Limited) 6-Nov-1863
. .
CitedSpoor v Green CExC 1874
There had been an assignment of a lease of coal mines but at the time of the conveyance to the plaintiff, the coals had already been substantially worked out. The grantor did not have title in the coals and was in breach of the covenant of title. . .
CitedAnderson v Oppenheimer CA 1880
The defendant owned a house in the City of London with different floors let to tenants. In the lease of the ground floor, he covenanted to allow the tenant ‘peaceably hold and enjoy the demised premises during the term without any interruption by . .
CitedLyttelton Times Company Ltd v Warners Ltd PC 1906
(New Zealand) The plaintiffs owned a hotel in Christchurch, next to the premises in which the defendants operated a printing press running 24 hours. They made an agreement under which the defendants would rebuild their premises and grant a lease of . .
CitedBamford v Turnley 2-Jul-1862
The defendant burned bricks on his land, causing a nuisance to his neighbours.
Held: It was no answer to an action for damages that he selected a proper place within his land for an activity which would interfere with a neighbour’s enjoyment . .
CitedSanderson v Berwick-upon-Tweed Corporation 1884
The Corporation let a farm to Sanderson. It reserved in favour of Cairns, another tenant farmer, the rights to use a drain across one of Sanderson’s fields and to enter and repair it. Water discharged by Cairns leaked through the drain and flooded . .
CitedSampson v Hodson-Pressinger CA 1981
The defendant owned a Victorian house which had been converted vertically into apartments. He let them to tenants under agreements containing the usual covenant of quiet enjoyment. One of the upper storey apartments had made use of the flat roof of . .
CitedCambridge Water Company v Eastern Counties Leather Plc HL 9-Dec-1993
The plaintiffs sought damages and an injunction after the defendant company allowed chlorinated chemicals into the plaintiff’s borehole which made unfit the water the plaintiff itself supplied.
Held: The appeal was allowed. Liability under . .
CitedCarstairs v Taylor 1871
The plaintiffs were tenants of the ground floor of a building. The defendants occupied the top floor. A rat gnawed through a box in which rain water was collected from the roof, causing a leak into the plaintiff’s property, causing damage. No . .
CitedKiddle v City Business Properties Ltd CA 1942
Goddard LJ said: ‘[The plaintiff] takes the property as he finds it and must put up with the consequences. It is not to be supposed that the landlord is going to alter the construction, unless he consents to do so. He would say to his intending . .
CitedSmith v Scott ChD 1973
It is not open to the court to reshape the law relating to the rights and liabilities of landowners by applying the principle of Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562 and thus saying that a landowner owed a duty of care to his neighbour when selecting . .
CitedDuke of Westminster v Guild CA 1985
The court was asked whether a landlord was obliged to repair a drain serving the demised premises which passed under the landlord’s retained land.
Held: No such obligation could be implied and it did not fall within the scope of the covenant . .
CitedBamford v Turnley 5-Nov-1860
An action lies for a nuisance to the house or land of a person, whenever, taking all the circumstances into consideration, including the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s enjoyment before the act complained of, the annoyance is sufficiently great . .
CitedJane Robbins, Administratrix of Edwin James Robbins, Deceased v Jones 16-Nov-1863
It is for the grantee of an easement, and not the grantor, to maintain and repair the subject matter of the easement, with a duty to do so if by his neglect the servient tenement suffers damage. . .
CitedMalzy v Eichholz CA 1916
A landlord is not liable in damages to his lessee under a covenant for quiet enjoyment in respect of a nuisance caused by another of his lessees, even if he knows the lessee is causing the nuisance and takes no steps to prevent it. To be liable for . .
CitedDennett v Atherton 1872
The covenant for quiet enjoyment cannot be elevated into a warranty that the land is fit to be used for some special purpose. . .
CitedBall v Ray 1873
The occupier of a house in a street in Mayfair had many years previously converted the ground floor into a stable. A new occupier altered the location of the stable so that the noise of the horses became an annoyance to the next-door neighbour and . .
CitedLeech v Schweder CA 1874
Mellish LJ said: ‘It is perfectly true that the lessee is ‘to hold and enjoy without any suit, let or hindrance.’ But what is he to hold and enjoy? ‘The premises’. What are the premises? The things previously demised and granted. The covenant does . .
CitedBroder v Saillard 1875
. .
CitedDavis v Town Properties Investment Corporation Ltd CA 20-Mar-1903
The scope of the landlord’s covenant for quiet enjoyment is limited by the fact that the owner of land adjoining the demised premises (which did not belong to the lessor at the date of the lease) might build on it at any time so as to interfere with . .
CitedHudson v Cripps 1896
. .

Cited by:
AppliedLong v Southwark London Borough Council CA 27-Mar-2001
The Council outsourced the collection of refuse from the block of council flats where the tenant applicant lived. He asserted that the Council were in breach of their covenants as landlords in failing to ensure that the refuse was collected . .
CitedDennis and Dennis v Ministry of Defence QBD 16-Apr-2003
The applicants owned a substantial property near an airbase. They complained that changes in the patterns of flying by the respondents were a nuisance and sought damages. Walcot Hall was subjected to very high noise levels from military aircraft. . .
CitedGoldmile Properties Limited v Speiro Lechouritis CA 29-Jan-2003
The tenant claimed damages form his landlord for breach of the covenant for quiet enjoyment. The landlord was obliged to repair the building, and in his doing so the tenant suffered losses through interruptions. The question was whether the Landlord . .
CitedMowan v London Borough of Wandsworth and Another CA 21-Dec-2000
The claimant tenant sought damages from the landlord and neighbour and fellow tenant for nuisance caused by the neighbour’s aberrant behaviour.
Sir Christopher Staughton said: ‘there is a strong trend in the cases in favour of the landlord who . .
CitedLMS International Ltd and others v Styrene Packaging and Insulation Ltd and others TCC 30-Sep-2005
The claimants sought damages after their premises were destroyed when a fire started in the defendants neighbouring premises which contained substantial volumes of styrofoam. They alleged this was an unnatural use of the land.
Held: To . .
CitedWoods and Another v Riley and Another CA 4-Jul-2005
Neighbours claimed under a covenant requiring the defendants not to use their land in such a way as to cause a nuisance. The neighbours had extended their shop so as to include a post office.
Held: The appeal was dismissed. Claims in nuisance . .
CitedVella v London Borough of Lambeth Admn 14-Nov-2005
The claimant sought judicial review of the decision to serve an abatement notice in respect of premises where the normal noise incidents of living were heard in neighbouring flats, which notices were to be abated by noise insulation.
Held: The . .
CitedJackson v J H Watson Property Investment Ltd QBD 7-Jan-2008
The tenant claimant held under a 125 year lease of the defendant. A fault in a light well led to water ingress and damage. The fault was in the landlord’s land but not the flat. The tenant alleged a nuisance by the landlords. The landlord replied . .
CitedLawrence and Another v Fen Tigers Ltd and Others QBD 4-Mar-2011
The claimants had complained that motor-cycle and other racing activities on neighbouring lands were a noise nuisance, but the court also considered that agents of the defendants had sought to intimidate the claimants into not pursuing their action. . .
CitedHirose Electrical UK Ltd v Peak Ingredients Ltd CA 11-Aug-2011
The claimant appealed against dismissal of its claim in nuisance. The parties occupied adjoining units on an industrial estate. The defendant’s business generated odour which, the wall between them being permeable, passed into the claimant’s office . .
CitedIran v Berend QBD 1-Feb-2007
The Republic of Iran sought the return of a fragment of ancient Achaemenid relief in the possession of the defendant, saying that it was part of an ancient monument. The defendant said that she had bought it properly at an auction in Paris. The . .
CitedCoventry and Others v Lawrence and Another (No 2) SC 23-Jul-2014
Consequential judgment. Mr Coventry had been found liable in the principle judgment in nuisance to the appellant neighbours. The Court was now asked as to several matters arising. First, to what extent were the defendants’ landlords liable to the . .
CitedRees and Another v Windsor-Clive and Others CA 1-Jul-2020
Reservation Derogation construed normally
Construction of tenancy agreement – correct approach to reservations made in favour of the landlord. The landlord required access to the tenanted farm to allow survey work anticipating development of his adjoining land. The tenant now appealed . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Nuisance, Landlord and Tenant, Housing

Updated: 10 December 2021; Ref: scu.135128