• In the case of Hussain v Lancaster CC [1999] 2 W.L.R. 1142, it was held that in a claim for nuisance, the person to be sued was the occupier of the property from which the nuisance emanated. A landlord was not generally liable for nuisance committed by his tenant unless he had authorised the tenant to commit the nuisance.

Facts of the Case

  • C were joint owners of a shop and residential property situated on a housing estate owned by D.
  • C suffered severe harassment, including racial harassment, substantially from tenants on the estate. This involved shouting threats and racist abuse from outside or hanging around outside, drinking and glaring at C.
  • The harassment also at times involved property damage, carrying the risk of injury to C and customers. The most severe instances involved active attempts to burn the property and demands for protection money.
  • C alleged that D was fully aware of the suffering inflicted on C from 1991 onwards, by constant contact with officers and councillors, as well as local press reports.
  • C alleged that D took no possession proceedings or other effective action against the perpetrators.
  • A letter dated 3rd May 1995 stated that where D had clear evidence of a breach in the tenancy agreement, D would act, and this could lead to possession proceedings against tenants perpetrating harassment and nuisance.


  • Could a landlord be held liable for nuisance committed by their tenant?
  • Had D been negligent in not exercising its statutory powers under the Housing Act 1985?

Held by the Court of Appeal (Civil Division)

  • Finding for D, that in nuisance, the person to be sued was the occupier of the property from which the nuisance emanated. As D had not authorised the tenant to commit the nuisance, D could not be liable.
  • A negligence claim related to the exercise of statutory powers required D to be irrational in not exercising the relevant power, or exceptional reasons that would justify paying compensation to C for failing to exercise that power.
  • It was not fair, just or reasonable to impose liability on D.

Hirst L.J.

  • The acts complained of unquestionably interfered persistently and intolerably with C’s enjoyment of C’s land. However, they did not involve the tenants’ use of the tenants’ land that was authorised by D. Therefore, the harassment falls outside the scope of nuisance.
  • Page Motors Ltd. v Epsom and Ewell Borough Council (1981) 80 L.G.R. 337 held that it was possible for a landowner to ‘adopt’ a nuisance from a tenant/user of their land by failing to remove them.
  • “The conduct of the gipsies in Page Motors clearly constituted nuisance in the technical sense, since in all its various manifestations it involved use of the council’s land which the gipsies had been occupying over a period of several years; on that footing alone, it is plainly distinguishable from the present case. So far as the council’s responsibility for the gipsies’ acts of nuisance is concerned, it seems to me that Mr. Jackson is right in submitting that the key to that case is the fact that, as specifically recorded in Ackner L.J.’s judgment, the council deliberately continued the gipsies’ possession of the land on policy grounds, and provided them with a water supply, skips, etc. thus in effect adopting the gipsies’ nuisance. No similar adoption occurred in the present case” [24].
  • Lord Browne-Wilkinson’s concluding words in in X (Minors) v Bedfordshire County Council [1995] 2 A.C. 633 apply with equal force here:
    • “In my judgment, the courts should proceed with great care before holding liable in negligence those who have been charged by Parliament with the task of protecting society from the wrongdoings of others.”
  • C will be aggrieved if not allowed to pursue their case, seeing that the remedies available against individual perpetrators will be difficult to pursue. However, allowing it would achieve only a long, expensive and futile trial.
  • C would gain no worthwhile advantage, and the public would suffer considerable disadvantage through the waste of court time and resources.