Complaining to a Private Landlord
Generally speaking a landlord is not responsible, and can not usually be held liable, for the actions of his tenant (unless they encourage or authorise the behaviour). However, if you may be able to persuade the landlord that, unless they take reasonable steps to ensure that the nuisance is abated, they will adopt some of the liability for the nuisance (and hence be liable to pay damages). Ultimately, the choice of whether the landlord takes action or not is up to him.
First you should advise the landlord and/or managing agent of the problem (a land registry search will reveal details of property ownership). Request that they tackle the matter and ask them to inform you within a specified period what action has been taken in response (14 days should be sufficient). The landlord can enforce the terms of their tenancy agreement. Initially, you would expect them to do this informally by talking and/or writing to the tenants and informing them of their obligations.
If the problem persists contact your landlord again (in writing) and inform them that the noise is continuing. If they feel that formal action is warranted they can take an injunction (unlikely) or evict the tenant(s) (more likely). You should note thought that, depending upon the course of action they chose to take, they may need evidence to substantiate their action.
Power to Evict
Ultimately, the landlord can evict the tenant if the behaviour is significant, unreasonable and persistent. In England and Wales excessive noise nuisance is a general ground for eviction and may allow a court to issue a possession order. The Housing Acts contain procedures and grounds for eviction which include the service of a ‘notice to quit’. The procedure may also be used against a tenant who breaches the terms laid out in their tenancy agreement which will often involve a clause relating to nuisance but may be more specific. The landlord may give up to 2 months notice and apply for the possession order if the tenants fail to leave.
The courts have discretion for granting orders and may not do so if they feel that the rights of the tenant will be unduly affected. There is a more secure ‘absolute’ ground for possession though. An absolute ground for possession provides a faster mechanism for landlords to get back possession of a property where certain action has been taken by enforcement agencies against tenants carrying out anti-social behaviour. More detail is provided in our section relating to the tools to combat anti-social behaviour.
In areas where licensing schemes apply to private landlords responsibility can be placed on landlords for acting against problem tenants. In such cases, where landlords fail to comply with the terms of the licence, they may face prosecution and/or removal of the licence. The schemes are run by the local authority private sector housing teams (usually based in the environmental health department).
The Housing Ombudsman Service
Whilst the Housing Ombudsman service can examine complaints about social landlords, some private landlords and letting agents have elected to be voluntary members and will also be covered by the same process. The procedures are outlined briefly in our section on complaints relating to social landlords.