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Statutory Nuisance: Advice for Landlords and Managing Agents


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Tenants seeking redress and resolution for a statutory nuisance arising from the condition of their home often turn to legal firms offering ‘no win, no fee’ assistance for private prosecutions under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA). Section 82 of the EPA allows a magistrate’s court to act on complaints made by any person aggrieved by a statutory nuisance. 

What is a Statutory Nuisance? 

Statutory nuisances are defined in Section 79 of the EPA. Prosecutions brought by tenants will involve conditions within their homes that can be said to be prejudicial to health or constitute a nuisance. A nuisance is an unreasonable condition that significantly affects the enjoyment of a property. Common examples include damp, mould, and rat infestations. 

Tenant Protections 

Initiating proceedings in the magistrate’s court against the ‘person responsible’ is often a faster and less expensive process for tenants to resolve the nuisance alleged. While tenants are typically shielded from litigation costs, landlords and managing agents are not. 

Legal Implications 

Failure to abate the nuisance complained of on receipt of a notice of intention to bring proceedings can result in a significant liability for costs and compensation and can result in a criminal conviction.   

Challenges and Considerations 

If you are served with a notice of an intention to bring proceedings, it is not necessarily easy to determine the best way forward. It may be unclear whether the complaint qualifies as a nuisance under the EPA. There may be a lack of clarity as to the cause of the nuisance complained of and/or who is properly to be regarded as responsible for it. It is not uncommon for liability to be contested on the basis that another party is responsible e.g., the freehold owners of the building of which the subject property is only a part, or the managing agents of the property. Tenant conduct contributing to the nuisance is a common issue. Waiting for the criminal process to resolve these issues can result in a significant liability for costs and compensation, not to mention the loss of time and inconvenience associated with it. 

Next Steps 

If you receive a notice of intention to bring proceedings under the EPA, we strongly recommend contacting a specialist lawyer to determine the appropriate response. This may involve liaising with a third party who should bear responsibility for the alleged nuisance. Establishing a clear, fully advised case strategy from the outset can significantly mitigate your potential liability.

Statutory Nuisance: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Usually in the form of a letter (it must be in writing), the notice is a pre-requisite to the instigation of proceedings. It is required by the terms of S.82(6) of the EPA. The notice is required to specify the matter complained of.
Proceedings are brought against the ‘person responsible’ for the nuisance, which can sometimes be difficult to determine. The first step is to identify the responsible party. Who it is can depend on the nature of the nuisance alleged. Structural issues may require proceedings against the property owner. This could be the freehold owner or leasehold owner depending on the nature of the premises and the cause of the alleged nuisance. It is advisable to seek professional assistance to ensure proceedings, if they do commence, are directed at the appropriate person.
You ought to determine as best you can the nature of the nuisance complained of and its cause. Whether it amounts to a statutory nuisance or not, resolving the issue within the 21 days allowed under the notice may prevent prosecution. Often, the notice of intention to bring proceedings only provides a general description of the nuisance, so identifying the exact problem and its source can be challenging. Professional assistance and liaison with the tenant or their representative may help prevent prosecution.
By this stage, you should know if you are correctly identified as the ‘person responsible’ and understand the nuisance's nature and cause. Professional assistance is recommended to determine the best next steps. If you have followed advice on receipt of the notice of intention to bring proceedings, you will be in the best position to know how to answer the allegation, defend the case, or mitigate the potential consequences of an adverse finding.

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John Lamb of Ronald Fletcher Baker LLP has significant experience defending statutory nuisance claims. He can be contacted via email at

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